The March Tip of the Ice Pick Award goes to George P. Pelecanos for his absorbing new novel Soul Circus, featuring Washington D.C. private investigators Derek Strange and Terry Quinn, the heroes of 2002's Hell to Pay. Strange is a 50ish black man, mellowing with age, but still hip to the flow of the capital streets. Quinn is a hardass, plain and simple edgy and brittle, ready to turn a real or imagined slur into something physical. These two characters enjoy one of the most complex relationships in contemporary crime fiction. The internal drama is easily the equal of the external as the two juxtapose working to find missing children with assisting in saving a known drug lord from the death penalty. Pelecanos is exceptionally insightful with regard to contemporary urban life: the poverty, the violence, the speech patterns, the environment, the relationships all ring true. He seamlessly weaves in characters from his other series, and he is no stranger to the shocking conclusion. Pelecanos is an author to read even if you're not a mystery fan; for those of you who are, he's in a class by himself.

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