Excerpt from The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Night Gardener

By George Pelecanos

The Night Gardener
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2006,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2007,
    364 pages.

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Holiday's mouth fell open and his eyes flared. "My sister died of leukemia when she was eleven years old, you piece a shit."

Ramone looked away. For a while there was only the squawk and hiss of the police radios and the low conversations of the spectators in the crowd. Then Holiday cackled and slapped Ramone on the back.

"I'm kiddin you, Giuseppe.Oh, Christ, but I had your ass." The description of the victim had been matched to a list of missing teenagers in the area. A half hour later, a man was brought to the scene to identify her. As he looked at the body, a father's anguished howl filled the night. The victim's name was Eve Drake. In the past year, two other black teenagers, both living in the poorer sections of town, had been murdered and dumped in similar fashion in community gardens, both discovered shortly after sunrise. Shot in the head, both had traces of semen in their rectums. Their names were Otto Williams and Ava Simmons. Like Otto and Ava, Drake's first name, Eve, was spelled the same way backward as it was forward. The press had made the connection and dubbed the events the Palindrome Murders. Within the department, some police had begun to refer to the perpetrator as the Night Gardener.

A CROSS TOWN, AT THE same time the father cried out over his daughter's body, young Washingtonians were in their homes, tuning in to Miami Vice, doing lines of coke as they watched the exploits of two hip undercover cops and their quest to take down the kingpins of the drug trade. Others read bestselling novels by Tom Clancy, John Jakes, Stephen King, and Peter Straub, or sat in bars and talked about the fading play-off prospects of the Jay Schroeder-led Washington Redskins. Others watched rented VCR tapes of Beverly Hills Cop and Code of Silence, the top picks that week at Erol's Video Club, or barely sweated to Jane Fonda's Workout, or went out and caught the new Michael J. Fox at the Circle Avalon or Caligula at the Georgetown. Mr. Mister and Midge Ure were in town, playing the clubs.

As these movers of the Reagan generation entertained themselves west of Rock Creek Park and in the suburbs, detectives and techs worked at a crime scene at 33rd and E, in the neighborhood of Greenway, in Southeast D.C. They could not know that this would be the last victim of the Palindrome Killer. For now, there was only a dead teenager, one of three unsolved, and someone out there, somewhere, doing the murders. On a cool rainy night in December 1985, two young uniformed police and a middle-aged homicide detective were on the scene.

Copyright © 2006 by George P. Pelecanos

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