Friday, August 18, 2006

The Night Gardener - George Pelecanos

The Night Gardener
George Pelecanos
Little, Brown and Company


In 1985, someone killed three young black girls in a poor section of DC. The killer dumped the bodies in community gardens during the night; earning himself the police nickname Night Gardener. At that time, Sgt T.C. Cook threw himself into the investigation, to no avail. The killer was never caught. Two patrolmen at the third murder scene were Gus Ramone and Dan Holiday, both in their second years on the force.

Fast-forward to 2005, and Cook is retired, but cannot forget the case he didn’t solve. Ramone is a Detective Sgt with Violent Crimes, and Holiday is an alcoholic when he’s not working as a driver/bodyguard. Then another body is found, echoing the m.o. of the Night Gardener. The body belongs to a friend of Ramone’s teenaged son, making the case hit even closer to home. Holiday, following the story in the papers, looks up Cook, who can’t let go of the case. The three men find themselves thrown together again, unexpectedly, after twenty years.

It’s clear that the case exists not only as a murder case, but also as an outlet for the three main character’s personal issues. Holiday is out to prove that he could have been a good cop. Cook wants to put the killer away; and Ramone is driven to stop crime and deal with his home life. While the murder case is involving, the more interesting aspect of the novel is the way the crimes, past and present, cause a sort of ripple effect, touching and changing many more lives than just those who were intimately involved. The author shows great depth and strength in his writing. Nothing is easy; there are no simple, pat answers. And even in the few cases when someone confesses to something, those left behind will deal with the fallout forever.

Rating: 9
August 2006
ISBN# 0-316-15650-7 (hardcover)


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