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The System

9780374716622 fc
Hardcover, MCD × FSG, 2020

“Gripping, meticulously researched, and smartly plotted, I devoured this brilliant novel over the course of a weekend.” —Paula Hawkins, author of Into the Water

“Fascinating, moving, and so very, very real. It grabbed me by the heart and mind from page one and never let me go.” —Marcia Clark, author of The Final Judgment

An electrifying, multi-voiced thriller tackling our criminal justice system, from the writer Michael Connelly has called “one of our most gifted novelists.”


On December 6, 1993, a drug dealer called Scrappy is shot and left for dead on the lawn outside her mother’s house in South Central Los Angeles. Augie, a heroin addict, witnesses the whole thing—before he steals all the drugs on her person, as well as the gun that was dropped at the scene. When Augie gets busted, he names local gang members Wizard and Dreamer the shooters.

But only one of them is guilty.

A search of Wizard and Dreamer’s premises uncovers the gun that was used in the shooting, and a warrant goes out for their arrest. They know it’s a frame-up, but the word from the gang is to keep their mouths shut and face the charges.

With these two off the streets and headed for jail, Dreamer’s friend Little, the unlikeliest of new gang members, is given one job: discover how the gun got moved, and why.

Played out in the streets, precincts, jails, and courtrooms of Los Angeles, Ryan Gattis's The System is the harrowing story of a crime—from moments before the bullets are fired, to the verdict and its violent aftershocks—told through the vivid chorus of those involved, guilty, the innocent, and everyone in between.

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  • "There are so many subgenres of crime fiction, all with their own traditions and tropes, that mastering any one of them could entail a lifetime of writing. But in The System, Ryan Gattis seems to capture the lion’s share of them. His fifth novel powerfully illuminates every corner of the law-and-order universe—from drive-by shootings to cops to courts, from corrections officers to parole agents and beyond. In unfurling the aftermath of a gang-related shooting, he builds a bridge of understanding—even for readers who think this might not be their kind of book—to a system that impacts us all."—Paula L. Woods, The Los Angeles Times"Ryan Gattis has written another spectacular, multi-POV stunner, this time interweaving the stories of two young men, one innocent, one guilty, and the cop who sent them both to prison. Gattis is one of the 21st century’s greatest disciples of classic noir, and The System promises to be as world-weary and lyrical as any crime fiction lover could ask for."—Molly Odintz, CrimeReads‘The title of award-winning novelist Ryan Gattis’s latest book, The System, refers to the apparatus of American criminal justice from street to courtroom, seen here through the eyes of everyone involved, be they perpetrator, victim, family member or law-enforcement professional, in first person monologues. Everyone has their own agenda – and the scales are weighted . . . Pacy, immersive and vivid, with strong characterisation and no punches pulled, this is an utterly riveting read’

    Laura Wilson, Guardian, Books of the Month‘Attempting, Law & Order-style, to illuminate the workings of the US justice system by following an attempted murder case from initial investigation to trial . . . The book is the fruit of six years’ research and there are all sorts of details that ring true . . . the most compelling courtroom drama I have read this year.’—Jake Kerridge, Sunday Telegraph, Novel of the Week‘The novel follows Ryan Gattis’s previous books in sketching a portrait of Nineties LA to sit alongside that of James Ellroy’s depiction of it in the Forties . . . so finely nuanced are the individual voices and so visceral in particular are the scenes of prison life, with its hierarchies and fault lines, that the writing accumulates a heft that forces you to care’
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