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: Gone

GoneGone by Mo Hay­der

My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Gone, by Mo Hay­der, is the fifth book in a series fea­tur­ing Bris­tol DI Jack Caf­fer­ty, and the first of hers I read. Despite four books of back sto­ry, I felt no lack or loss for jump­ing in at the wrong end, as Hay­der gave just enough rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion to offer a bit of depth and con­text with­out flog­ging a read­er with past events.

This book is a har­row­ing jour­ney down a swift riv­er, and there were sev­er­al times I got off the ride only to jump back on as soon as I could. Hayder’s vil­lain is giv­en a slow reveal, craft­ed of skill­ful slight-of-hand and an accu­mu­la­tion of small tells. The dan­ger is real and ever-present, and she nev­er, ever gives you a guar­an­tee of who is going to make it home at the end of the day.

Gone hooked me so thor­ough­ly that I imme­di­ate­ly start­ed on Hayder’s first book in the series, Bird­man. Com­par­ing the two shows just how far Hay­der has come as a writer, and how effort­less her prose now seems to be. I plunged through Gone because I felt I must. Not know­ing  the end­ing was unthink­able.

If you like police pro­ce­du­rals and thrillers, British or oth­er­wise, read Gone. But make sure you have an open week­end to do so, because you won’t want to put it down.

Review: Birdman

Birdman

Bird­man by Mo Hay­der

My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Mo Hay­der, as many review­ers point­ed out, is not one to shy away from a high body count, nor to make her char­ac­ters go through the wringer. AWESOME! This pro­ce­dur­al thriller is not for the fair or faint-heart­ed, but for those who want their crime grit­ty, their heroes flawed and their plots deep and inter­wo­ven, Ms. Hay­der is the writer for you.

The only rea­son I didn’t give this 55 stars is because I felt that one of the deaths was there for the shock val­ue rather than plot fur­ther­ing. Still, it’s close, and I gob­bled this thriller up with a spoon.

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