The System by Ryan Gattis is 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 known as 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 as 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.
Gripping, fascinating, moving, and so very, very real. The System is one of the best books I've read in years. Told from multiple perspectives, it's the story of life on the street - for gang members, fringe players, cops and lawyers - told in all its gritty, authentic detail. It grabbed me by the heart and mind from page one and never let me go. I'll be thinking about Dreamer, Angela, Wizard, Little - and all the rest of the vividly drawn, incredibly compelling characters - for a long time to come. The System is a thrilling, brilliantly written and profound work of art.”
It is superb. It’s weighty, authentic to its bone marrow, questioning and thoughtful . . . I am in awe of Gattis’s plotting, characters, sense of pace and most of all his ear for language and diction and dialect . . . The novel – like all his writing – has a strong social conscience, but its polyphony means that it takes too many sides to ever take sides . . . As a reader, a novelist and as a citizen who sees our best hope for survival is to walk a mile in the shoes of others, I massively enjoyed the book and I hope it gains a wide, wide readership. THE SYSTEM reinvigorates my idea of what fiction is capable of being.”
[The System] 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, [Gattis] 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.”
The System is a tour de force that shatters all the usual categories: It is a page-turner, but one you will want to read slowly in order to savor every gorgeous sentence. It's got bad guys and good guys, but you're never quite sure who belongs in which category. And if a novel is magical when you feel like you know the characters intimately, and like them, despite the fact they are mostly people you would ordinarily cross the street to avoid, then Ryan Gattis is a magician.”
The System took me back, powerfully, to my incarceration in the early 90’s. Wow. I relate so much to this book, it's painful. I could swear I did time with one of these characters in County. That's how real this novel is. I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction. Front to back, it's not just an incredible work, it's an experience. Especially for those with no idea what it's like to be inside.”