“The Man Who Came Up­town”

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - BOOKS -

By Ge­orge Pele­canos Mul­hol­land, 265 pp. ★★★

Ge­orge Pele­canos has drawn some heat lately: In an in­ter­view about his fa­vorite books with The New York Times, he named 20-odd male au­thors but only a sin­gle fe­male one, Harper Lee – to re­mark that she wasn’t a fa­vorite. As if to dou­ble down, his new­est novel, “The Man Who Came Up­town,” is ded­i­cated to El­more Leonard and Charles Wille­ford. It’s about a re­formed ex-con named Michael and a rest­less pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor named Orza­nian, whom Michael owes, un­for­tu­nately, a fa­vor. Pele­canos is a great sto­ry­teller and this is a shrewd, lean, mar­tin­is­mooth sus­pense novel, with a nu­anced por­trayal of Wash­ing­ton’s gen­tri­fi­ca­tion. Its fe­male lead, Anna, is a hot li­brar­ian who, in pas­sages of mawk­ish af­fec­ta­tion, teaches Michael to love read­ing. (Roll your own eyes, mine are tired.) It’s not ex­actly a crime that such a gifted writer should have such res­o­lutely male in­flu­ences and bound­aries; but it is a shame.

HE­LEN CLYNE

Kate Atkin­son

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