George Pelecanos' new novel, 'The Double,' keeps the reader busy and involved

George Pelecanos published his first book in 1992. He has been writing novels that are set in the Washington area ever since. You might not have read his books, but you might have seen some of his TV productions.

He was nominated for an Emmy for his work on The Wire on HBO. He also was a writer on the TV miniseries The Pacific and is currently working on the HBO series Treme.

His latest novel, The Double, is the second in his series that features Spero Lucas, an Iraq War veteran now employed as a private investigator. In the first novel, The Cut (2011), Pelecanos revealed that Lucas chose to continue to live an adrenaline-charged existence like the one he knew during the war.

The title of that book refers to the 40 percent finder's fee that Lucas charges his clients for the recovery of their stolen property.

Lucas also does some investigative work for an attorney. In The Double, the lawyer is defending a man who has been charged with murdering a young woman who had attended the same inner-city high school where Spero's brother teaches.

He spends time trying to establish that somebody else had committed the murder. That task becomes secondary when his services are retained to find and take back a stolen painting. This piece of art is very valuable. It was the portrait of two men. This picture was named The Double. If Lucas can locate it and get it back, his cut will be substantial.

Pelecanos is a masterful plotter. Lucas mulls over some disparate threads that will somehow come together and unite seemingly unconnected clues. There's someone running an online scam. The scammer pretends he's in the military and that he's trying to sell a car before he is shipped overseas.

Lucas is outraged by this scam. He eventually determines that there's a link between the used-car scam and this stolen painting. A criminal named Billy King, a muscular blond surfer type, is the leader of a trio of thieves. He sought out the woman who owned the picture, seduced her to gain access to it, and then absconded with it. She then hired Lucas to find it.

Suffice to say that Lucas doesn't concern himself with obeying laws as he delivers his distinctive version of justice.

During the gritty novel's showdown, King tells Lucas that the two of them have a lot in common. Lucas doesn't want to accept that he could ever be considered the double for this vicious thief. Our title The Double acquires a double meaning.


'The Double'

By George Pelecanos

Little, Brown. 292 pages. $26.