Derek Strange is hired to find evidence to keep Granville Oliver from getting the chair. Terry Quinn is helping his girlfriend find a missing girl. How will their cases intersect with a brewing turf war between two gangs?
In this Strange and Quinn outing, Pelecanos explores the gang life in Washington DC even deeper than he has in the past and Strange and Quinn are drowning in it. Strange is tracking down evidence that could keep a known gangster alive out of guilt for killing the man's father when he was a cop. Quinn's helping his girlfriend Sue Tracy find a missing girl. Dewayne Durham and Horace McKinley are heading toward a confrontation that can only end in violence. Dewayne's loser brother Mario touches a spark to a trail of gunpowder with an act of thoughtless violence that sends everything into motion.
Soul Circus has all the Pelecanos hallmarks: pop culture references, philosophical talk about the nature of guns, violence, and life in DC, and of course, Nick Stefanos. Things start getting tense once Mario finds himself in the soup and they don't let up until a couple bloody moments near the end.
The antagonists in Soul Circus are among Pelecanos' best I've read so far. Dewayne's crew and McKinley's crew are all much more developed than the heavies in most detective fiction. Monkey's feelings toward Juwan and his reluctance to harm the kid and Dewayne's feelings for his loser brother made the gangsters seem very real to me. Foreman and his code of ethics and love for his girlfriend made him surprisingly deep for a gunrunner, much more than I thought originally. Strange and Quinn were true to themselves throughout.
Strange and Quinn don't actually accomplish much in this book but the detecting is there, as is the violence. Too bad Pelecanos hasn't written more Derek Strange books since I only have one left.