Book Review: The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos

The story opens with the 1985 murder investigation of a 14-year-old girl found in a Washington DC park, another in a series of what the media has tagged “The Night Gardener” killings. The first name of each of the victims form a palindrome and each were found dumped in community gardens. Homicide detective T.C.Cook, well known for his careful, methodical approach and two up and coming beat cops Gus Ramone and “Doc” Holiday worked on the young girl’s unsolved case.

Twenty years later the story resumes to find detective Ramone married with two kids, his career is progressing although the memory of the unsolved Night Gardener murders remain to haunt him. After being forced to resign under a cloud of suspicion, due in part to his ex-partner Ramone, Holiday runs his own pennyanny business between drunken binges and one-night stands. When a friend of Ramone’s son is discovered dead in circumstances resembling the Night Gardener, it sets in motion a series of events that will uncover dark secrets while providing Holiday a venue to redeem himself.

This excellent piece of storytelling takes a hard look at the frequently gritty life of inner city D.C. and people’s own inner landscapes. The plot is nicely developed with a believable array of characters facing the problems of balancing family, career, figuring out what is best for their kids and trying to keep some degree of sanity in an insane world. The tension remains finely honed throughout as the tale unwinds to a satisfying conclusion.

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