Beverly, Bill. Dodgers. Crown. Apr. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781101903735. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101903742. F
With characterizations recalling the best of George Pelecanos, this debut novel by Beverly (American literature, Trinity Univ.; On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America) follows the coming-of-age story of East, a young Los Angeles gang lookout who is sent on a road trip with three others to kill a witness in Wisconsin. This is not the usual road trip narrative; each of the four young men could easily carry their own book, but East, a smart and sympathetic narrator, propels the story with his internal assessments of his cohorts and their situation. An unexpected turn in the latter third of the novel brings the focus more squarely on East, who has never been out of L.A. and begins to examine the possibilities that are available to him beyond his urban life as well as the reality of being a young black man in a predominantly white Midwest America. VERDICT Fans of HBO’s The Wire and Richard Price novels will be engaged by the book’s themes of race, identity, and the U.S. class system.
Swinson, David. The Second Girl. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jun. 2016. 368p. ISBN 9780316264174. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316264181. F
Longtime addict Frank Marr was a decorated police detective in Washington, DC. Now two years after his retirement, he works sporadically as a private investigator to support his drug habit. Leslie, a defense attorney and Marr’s occasional bedfellow, keeps him on retainer to investigate cases for her clients. But one day when Marr’s stash of drugs runs low, he discovers a teenage girl in a closet while canvasing a local gang’s safe house for illicit drugs. Upon delivering the abducted girl to Leslie, Marr is hired by a family from the suburbs of Virginia to investigate the disappearance of another girl—who has a connection to the first girl. VERDICT Swinson (A Detailed Man) delivers an excellent addition to the noir genre as he unveils layer after layer of his gritty protagonist. Readers of Dennis Lehane and Richard Price as well as fans of The Wire will appreciate the bleak description of inner-city Washington, DC.