Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos
Hardcover, 372 pages
Little, Brown & Company, August 2006
ISBN-13: 9780316156509
mystery/crime novel
highly recommended

From the Publisher:
Gus Ramone is "good police," a former Internal Affairs investigator now working homicide for the city's Violent Crime branch. His new case involves the death of a local teenager named Asa whose body has been found in a local community garden. The murder unearths intense memories of a case Ramone worked as a patrol cop twenty years earlier, when he and his partner, Dan "Doc" Holiday, assisted a legendary detective named T. C. Cook. The series of murders, all involving local teenage victims, was never solved. In the years since, Holiday has left the force under a cloud of morals charges, and now finds work as a bodyguard and driver. Cook has retired, but he has never stopped agonizing about the "Night Gardener" killings. The new case draws the three men together on a grim mission to finish the work that has haunted them for years. All the love, regret, and anger that once burned between them comes rushing back, and old ghosts walk once more as the men try to lay to rest the monster who has stalked their dreams.
My Thoughts:

The opening of Pelecanos' novel is at the scene of a murder in 1985 where we are introduced to the three of the characters: patrolmen Gus Ramone and Dan Holiday, and sergeant T.C. Cook. Then the novel jumps to 2005 and Gus Ramone is now a detective, Dan Holiday is no longer a cop, and T.C. Cook has retired. Another murder has occurred that closely resembles three unsolved murders in 1985. But this novel is much more than a simple quest to solve the crimes. Pelecanos is a very good writer. His characters are very well developed with depth and nuances. The settings are real. The sub plots are compelling. In the end it all comes together, and the ending was unpredictable and original. There is some gritty language and dialogue in this emotionally complex novel. The Night Gardener is not a heart-stopping thrill ride; it is a careful walk at midnight in the rain where you can see all the details. (I also love the cover on this book.) Highly Recommended


THE CRIME SCENE was in the low 30s around E, on the edge of Fort Dupont Park, in a neighborhood known as Greenway, in the 6th District section of Southeast D.C. A girl of fourteen lay in the grass on the side of a community vegetable garden that was blind to the residents whose yards backed up to the nearby woods. There were colorful beads in her braided hair. She appeared to have died from a single gunshot wound to the head. A middle-aged homicide police was down on one knee beside her, staring at her as if he were waiting for her to awake. His name was T. C. Cook. opening

An ID on the body would confirm it, but Cook suspected that this one was like the others. She was one of them. pg 4

The victim's name was Eve Drake. In the past year, two other black teenagers, both living in the poorer sections of town, had been murdered and dumped in similar fashion in community gardens, both discovered shortly after sunrise. Shot in the head, both had traces of semen in their rectums. Their names were Otto Williams and Ava Simmons. Like Otto and Ava, Drake's first name, Eve, was spelled the same way backward as it was forward. The press had made the connection and dubbed the events the Palindrome Murders. Within the department, some police had begun to refer to the perpetrator as the Night Gardener. pg. 9

They could not know that this would be the last victim of the Palindrome Killer. For now, there was only a dead teenager, one of three unsolved, and someone out there, somewhere, doing the murders. On a cool rainy night in December 1985, two young uniformed police and a middle-aged homicide detective were on the scene. pg. 10

Over the desks of the detectives were corkboards, many displaying photos of children, wives, and other relatives alongside death photos of victims and apprehended but unconvicted perps who had become obsessions. Crucifixes, pictures of saints, and psalm quotes were in abundance. Many of the VCB detectives were devout Christians, others only claimed they were, and some had lost their faith in God completely. pg. 50-51

He had been a cop, and then he wasn't. Now he wore a stupid hat, made conversation with people who did not interest him at all, and jockeyed luggage in and out of the trunk of a car. pg 83

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