Review: Gone, Baby, Gone

Gone, Baby, Gone
Gone, Baby, Gone by Den­nis Lehane

My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Gone, Baby, Gone is the fourth of Den­nis Lehane’s series with PIs Patrick Ken­zie and Angela Gen­nero. Fourth, and so far, arguably, the best.

While the sto­ry took me a good 50 pages to get into, once Patrick and Ang­ie take the case, that of a miss­ing child, the emo­tion­al stakes sky­rock­et for both read­er and char­ac­ters. And it just nev­er stops. There are more twists and turns to this plot than an dirt road wind­ing through a treach­er­ous ravine, but always the twists were log­i­cal, and always com­plete­ly believ­able. At one point, I set the book down, think­ing, “I have no idea how they’re going to make it out of this one.”

In Gone, Baby, Gone, our cen­tral char­ac­ters’ strengths are giv­en a gen­er­ous hand, but so too are their flaws. Mis­takes are made, good peo­ple fal­ter, bad peo­ple tri­umph, and the read­er is left try­ing to decide if jus­tice was done; if the truth was worth hold­ing up to the light. In fact, while he’s busy break­ing his char­ac­ters’ hearts, he’s break­ing ours as well. The sub­ject mat­ter, the endem­ic neglect and abuse of chil­dren in Amer­i­ca, hits every­one with the weight of a freight train, and none are left unscathed even if some are left stand­ing. Lehane asks hard ques­tions, and expects his read­er to at least think of pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Yes, it’s a mys­tery. Yes, it’s a thriller. And yes, Gone, Baby, Gone is so much more. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Lehane just keeps get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter. I am in awe.

Review: A Drink Before the War

A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro, #1)A Drink Before the War by Den­nis Lehane

My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I think the Boston Sun­day Globe said it best, “Harsh and chill­ing … an absolute­ly ter­rif­ic sto­ry.”

This is the third Den­nis Lehane sto­ry I’ve tucked away and I have to say, the man can write. I only put the book down to get some sleep, and fin­ished it as soon as I could the next day. The sto­ry is sol­id, his char­ac­ters deep and nev­er dull, the loca­tions as defined as his char­ac­ters. And even if I was pret­ty sure how the end­ing would come out–and I was right–I still want­ed to know Ken­zie and Gen­naro would get there.

This was writ­ten 15 years ago, and yeah, I know, I’m behind the times.  Hap­pi­ly, for a read­er who doesn’t know much about the cur­rent Boston, the sto­ry has weath­ered very well.  I don’t know how much has changed local­ly in the bet­ter part of a gen­er­a­tion, but the top­ics Lehane hits go well beyond local, and well beyond our own neigh­bor­hoods, and they still seem as ram­pant today as they ever were.

I’m look­ing for­ward to Ken­zie and Gennaro’s next case, which I’m going to start … right about now.  Time for some more of Mr. Lehane’s excel­lent sto­ry­telling.

Has any­one else on my FL read much of Lehane?  If so, what did you think of him?  If you haven’t, what has stopped you from read­ing his work?

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Review: The Treatment

The TreatmentThe Treat­ment by Mo Hay­der

My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

Mo Hayder’s book, The Treat­ment is the sec­ond in her series with DI Jack Caf­fery, and shows Ms. Hayder’s grow­ing com­mand of the pro­ce­dur­al thriller. Tech­ni­cal­ly? This book is an incred­i­ble exam­ple of its genre. The sto­ry is tight, inter­wo­ven, com­plex and incred­i­bly com­pelling.

It’s also incred­i­bly bru­tal.

I only made it halfway through the book before I had to call it quits. I was so caught up in the sto­ry, even with tense­ly antic­i­pat­ing how much worse it could get for both present and past crimes–and yes, sit­u­a­tions COULD get worse, and often do in her books–that Hayder’s sto­ry­telling con­tin­u­al­ly sucked me back in. Even­tu­al­ly, though, I found the crimes depict­ed were so heinous and the suf­fer­ing of the vic­tims so drawn out, that I put the book down. Did I want to know if the vic­tims made it out? Yes, because in the world of DI Caf­fery, there’s no guar­an­tee that good, or even jus­tice, pre­vails or that any­one makes it out alive. Even so, I didn’t want to steep my brain in the tor­ment of the vic­tims for anoth­er 150 pages before some sort of res­o­lu­tion might occur. I con­sid­er myself fair­ly hard-core when it comes to mur­der in crime nov­els. With this one, though, my wal­low­ing in tor­ment reached its lim­it.

The three stars reflects me hav­ing to put it down, but for sheer effec­tive­ness in writ­ing, for the abil­i­ty to make you care for the victims–and even for the enor­mous­ly flawed Caf­fery himself–I wish I could have giv­en Mo Hayder’s The Treat­ment the full five stars. The female char­ac­ters are extra­or­di­nary strong and strongly-written–victims, cops, girlfriends–and that’s always a bonus for me in the male-dom­i­nat­ed cop-thriller genre (or any genre, for that mat­ter). Also, Hayder’s themes of fam­i­ly, indi­vid­ual brav­ery, and the stran­gle­hold of per­son­al his­to­ry are rich and com­pelling. They sim­ply weren’t enough to get me through the rest of the tor­ment-steeped pages.

The nov­el is phe­nom­e­nal­ly well done, and maybe some­day, when I don’t find my but­tons pushed, I’ll read the sec­ond half of The Treat­ment.  I’d love to find out what hap­pens, and how deep into the abyss Jack Caf­fery has to descend before he and the vic­tims find a way out.

… unless every­one ends up dead.

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Review: Mystic River

Mystic RiverMys­tic Riv­er by Den­nis Lehane

My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

What did I think of Mys­tic Riv­er? I won­der why it took me so long to read this sto­ry, or to dis­cov­er Den­nis Lehane.  That’s what I think.

Many of us have seen the movie based off the book direct­ed by Clint East­wood. I nev­er did. Hit too close to home, that fic­tion­al loss of a daugh­ter, Katie. Ten years lat­er, those buga­boos are gone, and the sto­ry found me again.

Set­ting aside 10 years of tech­ni­cal improve­ments that date the sto­ry some­what, the plot sweeps you along, dump­ing you in with the main char­ac­ter when they are 11 years old, and not spit­ting you back up on shore until it’s all said and done thir­ty years lat­er.  Lehane deft­ly weaves togeth­er the lives of the three men, their fam­i­lies and their neigh­bor­hood in Boston.  Their choic­es, old and new, become time bombs, nev­er quite for­got­ten, tick­ing away.

Lehane’s prose is descrip­tive, rich, and some­times sen­ti­men­tal with­out ever becom­ing maudlin or mawk­ish. He has an almost-gen­tle way of hold­ing up and expos­ing the char­ac­ters’ dark sides that is noth­ing less than bril­liant. It’s clear he knows his loca­tion, and his research was exten­sive. There were no mis­steps, no time when I grew bored with the sto­ry­line, no point where I put down the book to do some­thing more inter­est­ing. Mys­tic Riv­er is 448 pages of fab­u­lous­ly grip­ping sto­ry­telling.

Can­not wait to read some of his oth­er works. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excit­ed about a new-to-me author. What took me so long??

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Review: Cop Hater: 87th Precinct #1

Cop Hater (87th Precinct #1)Cop Hater by Ed McBain

My rat­ing: 2 of 5 stars

Cop Hater was writ­ten close to fifty years ago, and it shows it’s age.  Pot-boil­er pro­ce­dur­al? Hard-boiled pro­ce­dur­al?  Some of both, I think.  It was one of the first cops-in-the-squad-room mys­tery books pub­lished, and it spawned a whole new sub­genre for mystery–one I enjoy great­ly.  Usu­al­ly.

For me? I think this first book need­ed a bet­ter edi­tor, and I found the lan­guage to be sur­pris­ing­ly florid for such a slim word count.    Beyond those points, the plot was tight and the char­ac­ters mem­o­rable.  I’d need to be in a spe­cif­ic kind of mood for this spe­cif­ic kind of sto­ry, and it’s not a mood I get into often.  I’d rather curl up with Den­nis Lehane or Lau­rie R. King.  Still, I have a much lat­er 87th Precinct sto­ry on my shelf–#16, to be exact.  I’m curi­ous to see if any­thing has changed in McBain’s style over the years.

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