Summary and book reviews of Soul Circus by George Pelecanos

Soul Circus

By George Pelecanos

Soul Circus
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2003,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2004,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

A Washington, D.C., crime overlord is fighting for his life in court. Two younger dealers are fighting for his territory, prestige, and millions of dollars in future profits. It takes only one slip—a kid going out of control with a rented pistol—to push friction closer to wholesale slaughter. In the midst of this extraordinary tension, private investigator Derek Strange has found a woman whose testimony could mean death or freedom for the crime lord. He wants her to talk—but first he'll have to find a way to keep her alive.

Chapter 1

The chains binding Granville Oliver's wrists scraped the scarred surface of the table before him. Manacles also bound his ankles. Oliver's shoulders and chest filled out the orange jumpsuit he had worn for half a year. His eyes, almost golden when Strange had first met him, were now the color of creamed-up coffee, dull in the artificial light of the interview room of the D.C. Jail.

"Looks like you're keeping your physical self together," said Strange, seated on the other side of the table.

"Push-ups," said Oliver. "I try to do a few hundred every day."

"You still down in the Hole?"

"You mean Special Management. I don't know what's so special about it; ain't nothin' but a box. They let me out of it one hour for every forty-eight."

Strange and Oliver were surrounded by Plexiglas dividers in a space partitioned by cubicles. Nearby, public defenders and CJA attorneys conferred with their clients. The dividers served to mute, somewhat, the various ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Amazon.com - J. Kingston Pierce

Soul Circus delivers an un-blindered perspective on urban life (and death) that manages to be both frightening and hopeful. Not so unlike the city in which it's set.

Book Magazine - Chris Barsanti

Crime is rampant on the streets of Washington, D.C., but Derek Strange knows there's not much he cando about it. Unlike too many fictional private eyes, Pelecanos' protagonist isn't a crusader or some burnt-out cynic. This wonderfully odd thriller finds Strange spending more time arguing politics with his white partner, Terry Quinn, than he does brow-beating informants.

The Washington Post - Maureen Corrigan

What's so brilliant about Soul Circus, and Pelecanos's novels in general, is that he raises these questions not only in meditative passages (such as when Strange wonders how he ever lucked into the joys of a good marriage and fatherhood) but also in scenes of the rawest violence. In the space of a couple of paragraphs toward the middle of the novel, four gang members suddenly die in bloody, balletic sequence, and you find yourself reeling from the senselessness of their deaths, the waste of their stupid lives. Ditto for the ending of this superb novel, which shoves readers into an unwanted audience with the awful silence at the center of things.

USA Today - Carol Memmott

Readers of this series don't get a free ride. It's uncomfortable having a front-row view of hate, hopelessness and drugs. It's tough delving into the lives and psyches of gun dealers, drug sellers and users, gang members and a population that has never known anything but low self-esteem. And with every book, Pelecanos takes his descriptive powers to a higher level of brilliance. Scenes of violence are re-read for the beauty of the language and the cinematic quality that pushes readers to envision urban evil in all its forms.

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

Like the novels of Richard Price ... Soul Circus is both tragedy and thriller, especially as it describes the all but accidental casualties of urban warfare. ... Mr. Pelecanos continues to display a sharp eye for detail and a terrific ear for street dialogue. ... And once again he will leave readers eagerly awaiting his next move.

San Francisco Chronicle

The big boys-Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly and James Ellroy-have some new, lean company in their crime writers' club Washington, D.C., denizen George P. Pelecanos.

Publishers Weekly

This is vintage Pelecanos, with characters to remember, dialogue that rocks, an unsentimental, kinetic tableau of the D.C. underworld and, most of all, a conscience.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Starred Review ...one more superb installment in what has become a remarkably revealing portrait of urban life, encompassing both the broad sociopolitical questions and the most intimate matters of heart and mind.

Kirkus Reviews

The bleak, powerful fadeout reserves resolution mostly for the dead; the living will clearly have to take their chances in whatever blistering sequel their talented creator has planned.

Reader Reviews
David

Liberal Guilt Trip to the SOUL CIRCUS
While this is a good story and written fairly well, the book's impact is really weakened by its constant moralizing, both in character dialogue and in author editorializing. In the author's stereotypical view, all of DC's street crime, corruption ...   Read More

jpj

Soul Circus is very DC. At least a certain part of DC. I found myself almost turning to a city map to follow along with the action. The action is inner city drama of bad people doing bad things and good people trying to get out, but always somehow...   Read More

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