A white cop kills an off-duty black cop and the black cop's mother hires Derek Strange to get to the bottom of things. Strange stumbles into a world of drug dealers and dirty cops, and the only man who can help him is Terry Quinn, the white cop who shot the son of the woman who hired him...
Right as Rain kicks off the Derek Strange series. Strange, a sixty-ish black PI, is a pretty smooth character, a former cop who is fond of westerns. Terry Quinn is a white disgraced former cop who works in a used book and record store. Pelecanos uses their contrasting characteristics to explore race relations in Washington DC while they tackle the case of Chris Wilson, the off-duty cop Quinn killed.
Sound like Lethal Weapon? It's not, although Strange and Quinn poke fun at the Gibson and Glover action comedy a couple times. Strange and Quinn are both very well developed characters. Quinn's an intense guy and isn't sure if he shot Wilson because he was brandishing a gun or because he was black. Further complicating Quinn's feelings on race is Juana, his half-black, half-Puerto Rican girlfriend. Strange has been in a casual relationship with his secretary for years but won't commit despite feeling fatherly toward her son Lionel.
The friendship between Strange and Quinn grows naturally, first over westerns and boxing, and seemed pretty believable to me. I found myself caring about their relationships with their women and with each other more than the eventual gunplay I knew was coming.
The villains of the piece, the drug dealers, aren't as developed as I would have liked but the story is more about the interactions between Strange and Quinn anyway. Although I did like that Pelecanos had them leave DC for the country a bit. Both men emerge from the story changed men to some degree. Strange's case turns out well and Quinn learns a few things about himself.
4 stars. I'll be reading more of Strange and Quinn in the future.