cover image Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go

Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go

George P. Pelecanos. St. Martin's Press, $20.95 (234pp) ISBN 978-0-312-13056-5

Welcome to the unlit bleakness of grunge crime fiction. Nick Stefanos (Nick's Trip) inhabits D.C.'s most squalid streets, tending bar, boozing for free, wasting his 30s and dating a girl with a taste for the sauce to rival his. One night, out on a bender and nearly passed out, he hears a murder being committed and decides to find the killers (how a guy this hammered can later remember so much is cheerfully glossed over). Nick gets himself an alarmingly straight-arrow partner and dives headlong into the underbelly of the porn trade. Two young black men have been dealing drugs and selling their bodies; one is dead, and the other is missing. Stefanos only pauses to drink, listen to music by bands with whom only the hippest readers will be familiar and have a few bouts of desperate sex. Although his innumerable descriptions of bars and boozing might leave some bored (or queasy), Pelecanos joins company with James Ellroy, Andrew Vachss and Jack O' Connell in extending the noirest tones of crime fiction. Here, he unleashes a lacerating view of urban angst and degradation. (June)