"By the award winning writer for 'The Wire'", says the tagline on the front cover. Longtime fans of George Pelecanos will hope that this come-on and the series' posthumous success on this side of the Atlantic will bring him and 'The Way Home' to a wider audience. Over 17 years and 16 books, Pelecanos has followed cops, cons, private eyes and many more in his native Washington, DC, a master of setting, character and the small details which make up a life. And while Pelecanos started off as a crime writer, his work has become bigger than the genre - he's now just as gripping as a social commentator. 'The Way Home' is among his best, and a great place for the beginner to start.
Chris Flynn was a middle-class tearaway who spent time in reform school as a teenager after a litany of anger and boredom-fuelled run-ins with the law. Now 28, he has a proper job and a soulmate but his is a story of unrealised potential and unresolved issues. When he's dragged into the aftermath of a botched burglary, Flynn must finally choose just what he wants from life and who he wants to be.
Two of the main themes of Pelecanos' work are redemption and people's ability to do the right thing and 'The Way Home' is his most poignant expression of both. Through a strained father-son relationship and other characters who've missed out on having one he writes of the complexities of love and society's willingness to write people off even before they reach adulthood. Mixing tension, troubling imagery and tenderness, he reminds the reader of the gifts and chances they've been given in their own life and that everyone has a story if there's someone who is willing to listen. The final page is heartbreaking, but you'll leave this book in better shape than when you arrived - if only more young people could get to read it.