South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Pelecanos returns with novellas; ‘Deepest Kill’ a forensic mystery

- By Oline H. Cogdill

While redemption and the aftermath of crime are a common theme of mysteries, critically acclaimed author George Pelecanos has made these tropes unique in his more than

20 novels, beginning with

1994’s “Shoedog.” Pelecanos’ lyrical writing, affinity for characters and perceptive view of Washington, D.C., have produced some outstandin­g novels, including “The Sweet Forever” (1998), “Shame the Devil” (2000), “Drama City” (2005) and “The Night Gardener”


But Pelecanos’ last novel was published in 2018 — “The Man Who Came Uptown” — as he turned his attention to writing for television series such as “The Wire,” “Treme,” “The Deuce” and other writing and producing projects.

The four novellas comprising “Owning Up” marks a most welcomed return of Pelecanos. The novellas are not traditiona­l crime fiction. Each is more about the crimes of the heart and circumstan­ces, how a single decision can have ramificati­ons for a lifetime. The title “Owning Up” illustrate­s how each of the characters in these unconnecte­d stories must come to terms with their actions.

In “The Amusement Machine,” Jerrod Williams and Ira Rubin meet in the book club offered by the D.C. jail where both are incarcerat­ed. Jerrod wants nothing to do with Ira, one of the few white men in the jail. Jerrod is a reader who graduated college before getting caught up in a gun charge. Ira is a con man who passed bad checks and devised elaborate schemes for little money but to achieve his main goal — to not work.

After both are released, the two men eventually end up on the same set as background extras for a television series. Jerrod sees this as an opportunit­y for a future; Ira sees it as another way to cheat the system.

A no-knock warrant targeting his teenage son forever haunts writer Joseph Caruso, whose peace of mind and home are upended in “The No-Knock.” The charges against his son are dropped but Joseph becomes obsessed with what happened. A woman confronts her family’s tragic past when she meets a man who knew her grandmothe­r in “Knickerboc­ker.” A teenager becomes fascinated by a hostage situation in which his girlfriend’s father is one of the victims in “Owning Up.” The young man is confronted with the choice to be caught up with a co-worker’s criminal leanings or make a different future.

Each of the stories is filled with regret, heartbreak and the everlastin­g impact of choices we make in life.


Extreme wealth can, of course, buy luxurious items, round-the-clock high-tech security and well-trained body guards. But wealth can’t buy health, nor can it offer complete protection from insidious betrayal, as Lisa Black shows in “The Deepest Kill.”

What money also can’t buy is the situation facing well-respected experts Ellie Carr and Rachael Davies of the Locard Forensic Institute. They are asked by the third richest man in America to find out why his beloved pregnant daughter died. Software and hardware pioneer Martin Post made his wealth designing innovative components used by most of the world’s computers. He also works on revolution­ary defense initiative­s for the U.S. military.

Martin is a devoted family man, doting on his second wife, Dani, and especially his only daughter, Ashley, who was expecting her first child. Martin built a stateof-the-art compound on Florida’s Gulf Coast to keep his family safe. The lush Florida estate is big enough that Ashley and her husband, Greg, had their own massive wing. Martin refuses to believe that Ashley, an expert boater and swimmer, drowned.

Crime scene analyst Ellie and pathologis­t Rachael delve into investigat­ing Martin’s family and work that is ripe for espionage. Their combined unique skills continue to be honed at the well-known Locard, named in honor of the French criminolog­ist who inspired the profession.

“The Deepest Kill” is the third novel in the Fort Myers author’s series featuring the Washington, D.C., Locard. Black melds solid action, including thrilling moments on the high seas, with believable characters and a realistic friendship between Ellie and Rachael. The women started as adversarie­s but their respect for each other’s work, similariti­es and background­s fueled a deep friendship.

An authentic look at how the science of forensics works punctuates “The Deepest Kill,” allowing Black to draw on her own background. She worked as a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office in Ohio and continues to be a latent print examiner for the Cape Coral, Florida, police department.


Lisa Black will discuss “The Deepest Kill” at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Main Library, 3650 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach, 561-233-2600 as part of the Palm Beach Library System’s annual Writers LIVE! program. Registrati­on is free but required. Visit pbclibrary.bibliocomm­ to register.

 ?? ALEXA KING ?? George Pelecanos’ new collection of novellas is “Owning Up.”
ALEXA KING George Pelecanos’ new collection of novellas is “Owning Up.”
 ?? ?? ‘OWNING UP’
By George Pelecanos. Little, Brown, 240 pages, $28
‘OWNING UP’ By George Pelecanos. Little, Brown, 240 pages, $28
 ?? ?? ‘THE DEEPEST KILL’ By Lisa Black. Kensington, 314 pages, $28
‘THE DEEPEST KILL’ By Lisa Black. Kensington, 314 pages, $28
 ?? MEGAN DIPIERO PHOTOGRAPH­Y ?? Lisa Black’s new novel is “The Deepest Kill.”
MEGAN DIPIERO PHOTOGRAPH­Y Lisa Black’s new novel is “The Deepest Kill.”

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