The Man Who Came Uptown – George Pelecanos

This is a melancholy tale of a prison librarian Anna Byrne, a prisoner on remand called Michael Hudson, and Phil Ornazian, a private investigator with a sideline in crime.

Byrne knows the people in jail are not all good, but she knows the power of books and loves being able to bring some light into dark places. Sometimes she forgets and is drawn too close to a prisoner, like Hudson. But before things can get too involved, Hudson is released. His freedom is at a price, and he has to find a safe way around the dangerous obstacles that await his passage. Ornazian features largely in his future.

The characters are interesting, though I wasn’t completely convinced about Ornazian’s motivation. The interactions are well told with a light touch, and free flowing narrative.  The violence is not overdone, and the city backdrop is pitched just right. The story is straightforward – verging on lightweight – so the reader has to secure enjoyment from something other than plot twists and turns. On balance I would say that this novel just about delivers. I enjoyed it even though the absence of a decent, meaty plot meant I sometimes felt I was just coasting along.

The ending, when it comes, does add some spice to this simple tale. Overall, I liked it.

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