Following WWII, Pete Karras and his friend Joe Recevo return home to Washington D.C. to find that the best money to be made comes from working as collectors for the local crime boss. But it's a job that Joe finds himself better suited for than Pete does. One night, after Pete goes soft with one of the men he's supposed to strong-arm, Joe is forced to abandon Pete so that their boss can mete out his punishment.
A couple of years later, Pete, left with a permanently useless knee, works as a short-order cook at a restaurant owned by Nick Stefanos - a central character in four previous Pelecanos novels. Their paths cross again when Joe and his gang enter Stefanos's restraunt to extort protection money from him. Nick and his team are not the types to be pushed around, and the events that follow are classic Pelacanos.
One of the things that I enjoy the most about Pelecanos's books is the way he ties them all together. He doesn't use the same character over and over as the main protagonist. For example, in The Big Blowdown, Pete Karras and his wife have an infant son, Dimitri, who grows up to become a central character in King Suckerman. Pelecanos is a compelling storyteller whose characters are flawed, but who I couldn't help but care about.