Nick Stefanos has worked his way up from the sales floor of a Nutty Nathan’s electrical discount store to the position of advertising director. It’s not a role that gives him any real kind of fulfilment and he’s still trying to cling onto the alternative music lifestyle of his twenties. When one of the stockboys he’s befriended, a young kid who reminds him of himself, disappears he reluctantly agrees to help the kid’s grandfather track him down. But it seems that the kid has fallen in with the wrong crowd and is now running for his life. Stefanos is undergoing his own coming of age story, partying like there’s no tomorrow, throwing off the shackles of the corporate life, and slowly mutating into an amateur private eye. Once on the trail of the kid, danger looms, and it quickly becomes a race to see who can track him down first.
The power of Pelecanos’ writing is that he immerses the reader in the protagonist’s world and he has a fine observational eye for how social relations play out. The characterisation, dialogue and scene writing is first class. In particular, Pelecanos perfectly captures the people and banter of the sales floor, the tricks used to tumble customers into sales, the micropolitics of workplaces in general, and the ambivalent and conflicted nature of family relations. The plotting of A Firing Offense, however, is a little uneven, drifting at times, and lacks some credibility in places, and Stefanos lapses towards just about every stereotype of a PI, though given a thoroughly modern twist. Overall, the quality of the writing and observations win out, and the novel is a hugely enjoyable read. There are two more novels in the Stefanos series and I hope to track them down shortly.