March 18, 2002 12:00 PM

By George P. Pelecanos

Derek Strange, an African-American private investigator, and his white buddy, the disgraced ex-cop Terry Quinn, operate in grimy sections of Washington, D.C., where improper eye contact—a stare held too long—can be fatal. Car thieves worry about getting caught because it’s a rap that “brought you no respect inside the walls” of prison.

It’s familiar Pelecanos language, as crunchy as broken glass. In this second volume of a planned trilogy (following Right as Rain), a drug kingpin hires Strange to find out who killed a kid he coached in football; meanwhile, Quinn tries to save a young hooker from the streets. It’s a bleak world, but Pelecanos makes it glisten. (Little, Brown, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Dark victory

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