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Soul Circus (Derek Strange & Terry Quinn #3)

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,964 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
A Washington, D.C., crime lord fights for his life in court while P.I. Derek Strange finds a woman whose testimony could mean death or freedom for the crime lord.
Mass Market Paperback, 385 pages
Published February 1st 2004 by Vision (first published January 1st 2003)
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16th out of 30 books — 67 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,876)
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Dan Schwent
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 wh
Feb 15, 2014 Melissa rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 02, 2013 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The third Derek Strange novel. Because of some guilt over the long-buried past, Strange feels obligated to get to the bottom of charges against a drug dealer (Granville Oliver, the same one arrested at the end of Hell to Pay, now facing the death penalty). One brave young woman with a small child is willing to speak up, simply because she doesn’t appreciate being threatened, and Strange tries his best to keep her safe while balancing his newfound happy family life and work. Meanwhile his hot-tem ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Francis rated it really liked it
When I read Pelecanos I feel that menace.

Yeah, cause people be moving cool and loose, but their eyes are cold. And, it's a puzzle, cause it ain't easy knowing what to do. Avert those eyes and somebody's gonna see a victim, stare back and somebody's gonna feel a challenge. Its all about knowing how to show respect and knowing all the rules.

But that's tough cause the weather is hot and languid and the air is hazy. Words are sparse, like they cost somebody some money. But, meanings are clear. Your
Larry Bassett
Nov 26, 2010 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime
How many snippets from the first 30 pages will it take you to identify this author?

Out in the air in the 1900 block of D Street in Southeast…

He sat low on the bench, his stacked shoulders and knotted biceps filling out the ribbed white cotton T-shirt he’d bought out that catalogue he liked, International Male.

That’s right. You take all those slow-jam groups from that period, the Chi-Lites, the Stylistics, Harold Melvin, the ballad stuff that EWF was doin’, and what you got is the most beautiful
Feb 13, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Drawing comparisons to the acclaimed series ‘The Wire’ is no more evident in a Pelecanos novel than in ‘Soul Circus’. While primarily part of the Strange and Quinn PI series, ‘Soul Circus’ places a distinct emphasis on warring gangs and the ramifications of their actions. The third instalment in the series contains a lot of heart – fitting considering the title, by which the reader identifies with each character in some manner regardless of which side of the law their morals reside. From single ...more
Feb 16, 2010 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The District of Columbia’s home grown Peckinpah presents another gritty, existential modern western (with a great cameo by Nick Stefanos as a drunken spirit of the city), another tragedy of poor killing poor, a dispatch from forgotten corners. The author calls this his “anti-detective novel” one where nothing gets solved at great cost. If that was his intention here it was a success for whatever comfort that brings you. Soul Circus (great title coming from a terrific piece of dialogue) is a grim ...more
Ian Mapp
May 07, 2013 Ian Mapp rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
Most authors work is better on the page than when it transfers to the screen - either big (outmoded) or small (far more relevant and innovative, these days).

However, with George Pelecanos, I feel that its the TV where he lives. This would make a cracking short series or dare I say it, film.

The reason being.... well, there are a lot of characters - they are all well drawn individually but I found it hard to piece them together, in terms of the relationship they have with other. And ultimtely, the
Feb 24, 2016 Cybercrone rated it did not like it
Really, really a lot of local hood-rat talk that I sure as blazes don't understand, and don't know anyone who does - so that didn't help. Not really much of a story at all, and one of the "heros" gets dead because he was dumb.
This seems to be a backwards series, as most series improve as they go on and the author gets comfortable with his characters. This one gets worse, every book.
John Marius Gjersvold
Jul 14, 2016 John Marius Gjersvold rated it really liked it
Pelecanos virker å bruke sine protagonister, og antagonister, til å beskrive hva han mener om Amerika per i dag, og hva roten til alt ondt er; nemlig fattigdom.
Interessant. Og spennende!
Og jeg har en mistanke om at Derek Strange er Pelecanos alter ego :-)
Jun 21, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
Oh, George Pelecanos, you are really good. "Soul Circus" is a book that just rips from start to finish. It is the third in the Derek Strange/Terry Quinn series about a salt and pepper private eye team in D.C. and continues to build on the author's claim to be one of the best crime fiction writers at work today. This book has everything you would want: a plot that grabs the reader and won't let go, gritty detail that contributes to the realism, and some social commentary that is especially releva ...more
Jun 07, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
This was another great book from Pelecanos wrapping up the trilogy spanning the 60s through to the 80s. I inadvertently read this book without having read book 2 'Hell to Pay" but I'm not too upset with myself as it was such a good read. By this point in the Strange story he's middle aged but still street tough with strong principles about what's right. The latest case deals with Strange protecting court witness Devra Stokes and her son from a local thug on the rise and looking to take over the ...more
Nov 05, 2015 Jon rated it it was ok
Of the six or so Pelecanos novels I have read, this was easily my least favorite and the only one that didn't make me want to pick up another Pelecanos novel immediately. To me, it felt like there was way too much focus on pontification and not nearly enough on the narrative.

In Pelecanos's other Strange/Quinn novels (and his Nick Stefanos ones), the dialogue and observations on race relations and life in hardscrabble Washington D.C. were spices that elevated an otherwise gripping crime mystery
Feb 02, 2008 Erin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-suspense
Most people know how much I love HBO's The Wire (watch it, love it, watch it again), and Pelecanos wrote for the show. I've never thought I would like hard-boiled crime fiction, but his stuff is fantastic. You find empathy for the characters, even the street-level bangers who are in a situation they just don't know how to get out of (another theme of "The Wire"). His main character, private investigator Derek Strange, is a terrific, complicated character to build a series around.
May 25, 2008 Marguerite rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of crime fiction
Great crime fiction, set close to home. There are gangs, guns, drugs and more than a few bodies, plus social commentary on Virginia's easy gun laws. Pelecanos maintains tension nicely, and his characters (apparently Derek Strange is a recurring character) are complex, sometimes contradictory, people. The geographical details are just right, as far as I can tell. This is the second book by Pelecanos I've read. There'll be more.
Aug 10, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
If you miss The Wire, you should go out and get yourself a copy of Soul Circus. It takes place in DC, not Baltimore, but you'll recognize the cast of drug kingpins, dimwitted but protected sidekicks, bad cops, informants, and street kids, all viewed through the eyes of a private investigator who knows the streets but hasn't let go of his humanity. Yet.
Jan 18, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
A fantastic conclusion to my favorite crime/detective/mean-streets series. Pelecanos draws painful realism out of even the smallest bit characters, is a master of dialog, can balance a dozen threads at once, and squeezes light and hope from some truly deplorable s***. He's the most important crime novelist we have and deserves a larger audience.
Sep 04, 2008 Kellie rated it really liked it
-(#3 of the Strange Series) Picking up where Hell to Pay left off. Pelecanos uses this book as a voice for his ideas against the death penalty and for gun control. Nick Stefanos, a character from Pelecanos other series, makes an appearance here. I enjoy Strange’s determination to save DC one kid at a time. It’s heartwarming.
Jun 05, 2007 Brent rated it liked it
Recommends it for: hard boiled crime fiction fans
Shelves: crimefiction
Good book-- especially if you like Derek Strange and Terry Quinn. Does a great job of highlighting race issues in DC.
Fernando Gálvez
Jul 10, 2015 Fernando Gálvez rated it really liked it
Primer libro que leo de Pelecanos y me pareció un hermano chico de la serie The Wire. Con esta historia se cierra la trilogía de los inspectores privados Derek Strange y Terry Quinn, resolviendo tres diferentes casos que se van uniendo con el correr de las páginas donde encontramos tráfico de armas, droga y luchas entre bandas rivales por los barrios marginales de Washington. Las visiones de la justicia y del sentido de la vida de Strange y Quinn los hacen chocar en varios momentos pero son perf ...more
Dec 13, 2015 Acharnaikos rated it liked it
Το Soul Circus είναι το τρίτο βιβλίο με πρωταγωνιστές το δίδυμο ντετέκτιβ Ντείβιντ Στρέιντζ και Τέρρυ Κουίν, από τον υπερ-επιτυχημένο Ελληνοαμερικάνο συγγραφέα και σεναριογράφο της πολυβραβευμένης τηλεοπτικής σειράς The Wire) Τζορτζ Πελεκάνος.

Η αφήγηση συνεχίζει από εκεί που τελείωσε το Hell To Pay. Ο έμπορος ναρκωτικών Όλιβερ είναι πια στη φυλακή και οι Αρχές κάνουν ό,τι περνάει από το χέρι τους για να τον στείλουν στην ηλεκτρική καρέκλα για παραδειγματισμό. Ο (πρώην αστυνομικός) Στρέιντζ νιώθε
May 18, 2010 Ann rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Allen
Jan 18, 2013 Matt Allen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
Pelecanos has such a wonderful sense of culture and how it affects the world around it. His characters are very human--people you'd meet at the corner store, not in a book. His plot is something out of the newspaper, not a novel. Soul Circus, like the other Strange and Quinn novels, has such a sense of realism you could be fooled into thinking it's a true account.

This novel reminded me a lot of the HBO's The Wire--which is not a trick because Pelecanos wrote numerous teleplays for that show. The
Jan 29, 2008 Guy rated it really liked it
Soul Circus van George Pelecanos. Na Hell To Pay en Right As Rain het derde boek met het team van PI’s Derek Strange en Terry Quinn als hoofdpersonages. Net als de andere boeken is de setting het hedendaagse, grauwe Washington, D.C. Veel elementen uit het boek - de yin & yang van Strange & Quinn, het hippe taaltje, de klassieke hard-boiled-motieven, de invloed uit popcultuur, etc - zorgen ervoor dat het boek meteen in een traditie past, maar Pelecanos, die ook meewerkte aan HBO-succes Th ...more
Karen Gygli
Jul 26, 2012 Karen Gygli rated it it was amazing
I read What it Was by the same author last spring, and though I had a few problems with the structure/plot of that book, I enjoyed the writing and the characters, especially Derek Strange, who is my new favorite fictional detective, right up there with Alan Banks. Strange has a love of really good early 70s soul music, wisdom from many years of being a private eye and a honorable code. This one is set in the nineties, and this time, Strange is paired with a hot-headed young Irish-American detect ...more
Connie Sandlin
Jan 02, 2013 Connie Sandlin rated it really liked it
George Pelecanos has written a very vivid character in Derek Strange, main protagonist in this book and the others in this series (Right Right as Rain, Hell to Pay, and the prequels Hard Revolution, and What it Was ("What it Was" is shorter, more like a novella).

Even though there is much moral ambiguity in the actions of many of the characters, including Strange, I did come away with the feeling that the justice that had been done was mainly fitting. Pelecanos obviously knows his territory (Was
Mar 13, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
all three of these pelecanos "derek strange" books are worth reading, and often for the same reasons. soul circus isn't dynamically different from the first two, but the formula has plenty of range within it, so it's not a problem.

this one deals a bit more with the drug underworld than the first two - at least in the sense of how different crews rise to the top, how they buy their guns, what kids are expected to do in the name of loyalty, etc. as such, it's got a bit more urgency at times. you s
Hannah Cuesta
Nov 02, 2013 Hannah Cuesta rated it did not like it
Usually, any book I read keeps me so invested that even when I know I should be doing something else, I cannot seem to pull myself away from the story world that I am consumed in at the moment. With Soul Circus however, I found that I could put this book down any time I wanted to, it wouldn’t even matter if I was mid- paragraph, mid- sentence, mid- whatever. I am absolutely baffled by the fact that ANYONE enjoyed this book or gave it a five star, or even a two star review. This was THE worst bo ...more
Caitriona Mcintyre
Nov 03, 2013 Caitriona Mcintyre rated it liked it
I ended up reading this entire book without realizing it was the third of a trilogy! I’m actually kind of upset that I did that, but I think it’s really awesome how Pelecanos made the book understandable to people like me who came across it and hadn’t read the first two. (In my defense, the research I did on it said nothing about it being part of a trilogy). Probably because I hadn’t read the first two, I felt like I didn’t get to see too much character development. (Naturally, the character dev ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mom; crime fiction lovers
Recommended to Emily by: Chris Trainor and Scott Bryan
"Ashley made a half turn, blowing out an exhale of smoke and smiling, giving him a look at her ass cheeks hanging out the bottom of those shorts.
'Don't you like the way I look in these, Ulee?'
Foreman took her in and felt his mouth go dry. Her hindparts were bigger than most, but that was the way he liked them. And with those dimples and wrinkles and shit, it looked like someone had thrown oatmeal onto the back of her thighs. She had some veins on her, too, like blue lightning bolts, back there.
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George P. Pelecanos (born 1957 in Washington, D.C.) is an American author of detective fiction set primarily in the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. He is also a film and television producer and a television writer. He has worked extensively on the HBO series The Wire. His novels use an ensemble cast of characters, following their exploits across several generations. While there are ...more
More about George Pelecanos...

Other Books in the Series

Derek Strange & Terry Quinn (5 books)
  • Right as Rain (Derek Strange and Terry Quinn #1)
  • Hell to Pay
  • Hard Revolution
  • What It Was

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“We get schooled by the people around us, and it stays inside us deep.” 6 likes
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