Nearly a decade after Pelecanos (Shame the Devil; Nick's Trip) introduced Nick Stefanos to the private eye scene, the hard-boiled specialist has come up with a new urban gumshoe who's just as tantalizing to watch in action. Derek Strange, a black ex-cop in his mid-50s, walks the same Washington, D.C., streets as Stefanos, yet does so with far more experience under his belt. In his debut, Strange is hired to answer nagging questions about the death of black police officer Chris Wilson, who was killed by another cop in a shootout. Police investigators cleared Terry Quinn, the white cop who killed Wilson, but Strange soon discovers several hidden issues that may put a different spin on the case. Quinn confirms that he shot Wilson in self-defense, but admits he remains disturbed by the actions of the other people present at the scene of the conflict. Strange enlists his aid in the investigation and the case takes both men deep into the worlds of drug dealing, police corruption and racism. The plot rolls along in a workmanlike, almost predictable fashion. Yet as is usually the case with Pelecanos, it's the characters who give the story the gritty, dark twists that have become the author's trademark. The cast is wonderfully varied, yet Pelecanos also manages to capture the essence of most of his characters with just a few descriptive licks. It's Strange, however, who steals the show. He's a mature man with a highly defined sense of who he isDan aging private eye who knows that his best weapons these days are his wits and wisdom. (Feb. 6) Forecast: A new Pelecanos series hero is big news in the noir world. British, Italian, French and Japanese rights have already been sold, and a five-city author tour will start sales rolling in the U.S.