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friday

Time and place stymie many writers, and Silver Spring author George Pelecanos is no exception. How do readers know the opening and closing chapters of The Night Gardener are set in 1985? If his marking the year on the chapter pages isn’t enough, his references to cocaine, Dire Straits, and Miami Vice certainly are. And pointing out that a character can see the rear of the Hecht’s at Prince George’s Plaza from his apartment balcony adds little recognition beyond a “Hey! I know that place!” flash for local readers. Pelecanos can do better, and he does when he describes the subtle racism at a public school in a Montgomery County neighborhood where the cars sport “Celebrate Diversity” bumper stickers, or when he calls a character “as American as folding money and war.” His pacing is brisk, and his plot harkens back to 20-year-old unsolved killings, suggesting that when it comes to the crucial elements of good beach-grade noir, at least, Pelecanos is sure-footed. Pelecanos discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Joe Dempsey)