We soon learn the kid's father is a wholesale drug dealer on remand while he waits to go on trial. His operation is running on, managed by his two lieutenants who he apparently trusts implicitly. They're bringing large quantities of marijuana into Washington by way of FedEx, with deliveries going to unattended addresses where the swift removal of the object in question isn't going to attract attention.

The problem is that, within the five minute window between delivery and the planned removal someone else has made off with a couple of packages. Anwan Hawkins wants his stuff back, and he's willing to pay the 40% so…

His two trusted lieutenants, however, get taken out early in the piece, and while you'd think that would be the end of the matter Spero has turned up enough to be going on with and a text message on the iPhone provides the key to figuring out what should have been a pair of run of the mill and forensic free drug-land killings.

On that basis, things are straightforward, but Spero's digging has brought a few other elements into the mix, including a teenage kid with a movie fixation who actually saw the delivery go missing but needs to have the information coaxed out of him, The intern from the lawyer's office gives Spero the means to utilise the clue (once he's figured out what it was) and a couple of opportunities to get his rocks off in the interim. Actually, I guess, the 'er rather than the 'im, but I digress…

As a red-blooded twenty-nine-year-old with some catching up to do she's not the only flame in town, though what his adopted mother (he's the white non-Greek adopted son of an Orthodox family that also took in two black kids) would make of his nocturnal activities is best left to the imagination.

Spero's also remarkably well acquainted with the quality end of the D.C. dining scene, which definitely helps when you're setting things up for the horizontal mambo and trying to persuade someone to do you a small favour via an anonymous phone call on an untraceable mobile.

His brother, who teaches at the all-black high school a block away from the scene of the most recent heist, also slots in as a fairly significant player on the goodies' side, while the other side has a cop who's been inveigled into the heist by his ex-rogue cop father and a couple of heavies who'll take out the opposition with no compunction whatsoever.

It's a limited cast, but one that allows Pelecanos to explore issues related to masculinity and the question of whether you take your responsibilities seriously. Spero's brother obviously does, coming across as a dedicated teacher devoted to getting some of his pupils out of the ghetto. Spero might have issues of his own but he's headed (more or less) in the right direction and Anwan Hawkins may be looking down the barrel of a long stretch inside but once he's had the merchandise retrieved (it's a territorial rather than a financial matter) and Spero's collected his commission the rest of the proceeds are going to his ex-missus who's looking after the formerly wayward son.

With the dudes on the other side, however, responsibility doesn't enter into the equation. Sure, they deal drugs, kill people and the rest of it, but the notional good guys aren't exactly spotless. The good guys do, however, look after their families, respect their women and maintain a relationship with their kids.

But they're not all totally irredeemable. Re-establishing contact with his father brought errant cop Larry Holley into the intrigue, but when he has to make a choice…

Sharp, well-written crime fiction that's a satisfying read and may well parlay into an extended series.

You won't be needing a street map.

© Ian Hughes 2012