I've been a fan of Neely Tucker's thrillers since the first stunner--The Ways of the Dead--about the murder of the teenage daughter of a Washington, D.C., judge. He followed with Murder, D.C.--another death, this time the son of a prominent African-American family, who's found in the Potomac near a violent drug den--and now Only the Hunted Run (all published by Viking). Tucker has been a staff writer for the Washington Post for 16 years, which has given him the background to create a profane, flawed reporter in Sully Carter, a former journalist in war-torn Bosnia, and to limn the class and racial underbelly of the District. In Only the Hunted Run, Carter nearly dies during a shooting rampage in the Capitol. His investigation eventually leads him to St. Elizabeth's, a corrupt mental hospital. Tucker's plots are riveting, to be sure, but a case can also be made to read him for his edgy prose and snappy dialogue.
After the shooting, Sully--often mired in grief and anger and alcohol, always with an authority problem--is stuck in the "mosquito-breeding swamp called downtown... people walking around like clubbed fish, dazed but not quite dead. An Edward Hopper painting in three-quarter time." As he works into the night on a rewrite of the murder story, "feeds coming in fast from all over.... He felt like a tuning fork that had been struck on a gong the size of Nebraska, the tension from across the room pouring into him, like he has sensor panels on his palms, on his chest." Copy editors sit at their desks, "the last barricade against reportorial failures of grammar, common sense, and third-grade mathematics." Later, at Sully's home, "The ceiling fan spun slowly, more a thought than an actual breeze."
Sully Carter--tough, sardonic, and yet compassionate--is a marvelous creation, and Neely Tucker is a superb writer.