‘What It Was’ is a sequel of sorts to ‘Hard Revolution’ and focuses more so on the criminal perspective rather than the PI angle of other Derek Strange novels. Frank Vaughn (aka Hound Dog), reunites with Derek, their bond formed in the blood of a criminal in ‘Hard Revolution’ is ever present. Derek, having quit the police force is now running a fledging PI firm is asked by an attractive woman to track down a ring of sentimental value. Vaughn, for his part, is investigating the murder of a local thug and informant who is a 'tester' of new product before it hits the street. Before long the cases interlock and the bullets fly.
Enter Red Fury, a street gangster with ambition to be legend. Pelecanos crafts some memorable execution-like scenes involving the ever hard Red and his partner in crime. Coco, Fury's other half is the perfect mob-like moll. She's the Madame of a local brothel and is just as tough as her man. As per any Pelecanoss novel, the characters are well defined and a joy to read, those who grace the pages of 'What It Was' are no different.
The Into and Outro provide a sense of continuity to the Strange saga, with Nick Stefanos and Derek recounting killer Red Fury’s rain of homicide in 1972. The bar room scene plays out almost as a direct flow on from ‘Soul Circus’, the last book to feature the PI combo of Strange and Quinn. So in many respect, ‘What It Was’ is a look back at the past with an eye to the future.
I also liked the additional content which provided an insight into the creative process. Pelecanos sighted true events and a conversation with Ed Burns. The idea of Red Fury is also planted in another Pelecanos novel,’ The Night Gardner’ which I’m yet to read.
'What Is Was' is close to the best book to feature Strange. It has an engaging plot, dramatic insight into a more mature Strange, and a criminal cast just as strong as Pelecanos' other books if not more so. I couldn't read this fast enough. 5 stars. Pelecanos has left plenty of room for more stories set either in the present or past. I sure look forward to seeing where he heads next.
My review of Hard Revolution can be found here: http://justaguythatlikes2read.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/review-hard-revolution-by-george.html