Following a short stint in prison, Michael Hudson finds himself on the outside as a key witness of a robbery he had been involved in declines to testify. Seeing this as a second chance at a normal life, Hudson makes the decision to go straight. During his brief time behind bars, he found a passion for reading thanks in part to prison librarian Anna Kaplan. Michael is simply content to spend his future working hard while picking up a book in his spare time.
Unfortunately, what Michael doesn’t know was that the witness had been coerced by a detective looking to pocket a favor from Hudson down the road. The detective in question – Phil Ornazian – has a side hustle stealing from pimps and aware of Hudson’s proficiency behind the wheel of a getaway car, he blackmails Hudson into helping on an upcoming job. Feeling he has no choice, Michael finds himself back in the game.
When I picked up Pelecanos’ The Man Who Came Uptown, I was coming off a string of less than satisfactory reads. I was looking for something short and sweet in the crime fiction genre and I couldn’t have picked a better book. Now, I don’t want you thinking that by saying this was “paint-by-the-numbers” crime fiction that it’s an insult in any way. The Man Who Came Uptown is just a wholly satisfying story told well within my wheelhouse of fiction. Sometimes there’s nothing better than just picking up a book in your favorite genre and enjoying it for exactly what it’s trying to do.
The Man Who Came Uptown has a limited cast of characters and within its brief 250 + pages, you get to know each one relatively well. While I absolutely loved Hudson, Pelacanos especially does a great job with Ornazian. Ornazian is flawed, but his intentions are good, so it’s hard to root against him even when he’s putting Michael in a tough spot. While there’s a sense of doom that lingers over the story as it nears its conclusion, Pelecanos still managed to blindside me.
I really enjoyed Pelecanos’ heaping lots of love onto the act of reading and the satisfaction that goes with experiencing a well-written book. Aside from the danger of the robberies and Pelecanos’ look at the struggle that comes with changing one’s life, the best parts of this book involved Michael and Anna’s love for fiction and how it creates a bond between the two.
The Man Who Came Uptown was my third George Pelecanos experience and one of the better standalone crime novels I’ve read in some time. It’s still February, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see this on my year-end list come December.