Soul Circus
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Soul Circus (Derek Strange and Terry Quinn #3)

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,487 ratings  ·  70 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.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 1st 2004 by Vision (first published January 1st 2003)
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19th out of 30 books — 62 voters
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(showing 1-30 of 2,150)
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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...more
Ensiform
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
Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Josh
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
Adam
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
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...more
Larry Bassett
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
...more
Chris
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
Erin
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.
Marguerite
May 25, 2008 Marguerite rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Jessica
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.
Tom
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.
Kellie
-(#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.
Brent
Jun 05, 2007 Brent rated it 3 of 5 stars
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.
Ann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Allen
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...more
Guy
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
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
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...more
Dan
Mar 13, 2009 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Hannah Cuesta
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
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
Emily
Jul 13, 2012 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
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....more
Jasper
It is not good being a private detective these days in Washington D.C.. Derek Strange, this man that Pelecanos readers know well, can not always choose his clients. This time, he needs to work on behalf of a thug. There is much talk of the trial of Granville Oliver, a kingpin of the drug trade. The charges against him - and Philip Wood, who is his right arm, are so heavy that the sentence is clear: execution. In desperation, his lawyers appeals to Strange.
Found in the this read are the themes...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Other than a single, somewhat intimidating mistaken route through Baltimore many years ago, I have no experience of the world described by George Pelecanos. But the run-down housing of the Washington DC ghettoes, the fatherless families, the drug dealers, the immature gang culture, the gun problem which form the multiple themes of Soul Circus, these all have a ring of gritty authenticity.

Derek Strange, the central character, is a former policeman turned private investigator. There are plenty of...more
Patrick James
Pretty compulsive reading. Actually a 3 1/2 more than a 3 out of 5, but definitely not a 4. George Pelecanos' formula is so well-realized that you only need to read a few, but I will always pick one up, jus like a person might often default to ordering their favorite pizza, even though they could cook a fancy meal. The story moves along with the economy of a shortish feature film. Its characters are instantly sympathetic, even the bad ones, but the problem I find is with the self-consciously hip...more
ABC Group
The third in a series involving Terry Quinn and Derek Strange. It's odd...I've never been a series sorta reader. I have no real aversion to them, just a lack of exposure it seems. Pelecanos strikes again, but this time, I'd argue that Soul Circus is the best of the three I've read thus far.

I knew at the beginning of this book that my fascination with these two characters bordered on loving them in a way that had clear emotional content this go around. This is not a typical response from me but t...more
Matt
It's a hard-boiled crime novel about gang stuff, written by a white guy. Inherently problematic. Pelecanos' agenda appears to be to bring light to the institutional racism of things like the death penalty and gun laws, and to humanize the homicide stats by giving us believable, relatable characters who make mistakes.

The problems are that it's a little too amped-up; the dialectalogue is a little too researched and doesn't always flow (often it's downright clunky); some of the things that happen a...more
Paul
I must be getting old. Here are a few facts to support that view.

All the way through it felt like I'd read it before (which I have) but I couldn't remember when. Another sign of ageing is only remembering what happens next at the very moment it's happening- where the memory that you know something is much stronger than the thing you're trying to recall.

The book mixes scenes of street thuggery a la 'The Wire', large chunks of which Pelecanos wrote, with scenes of PI Derek Strange's bucolic life w...more
Charity
The only thing I wish that Pelecanos did not do was remind his reader of character details that they know from reading his other books in the Strange series, I feel like he's doubting my intelligence and ability to put things together, for the most part his books are smart and challenging but at times I feel like he dumbs them down a bit. Make the reader rise to the occasion.

The third entry in the Strange series blew me away with it's richness of interweaving narratives and characters. The way...more
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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
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