Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Book Review: Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

It was over ten years between the publication of Prayers for Rain and this final book in the Kenzie-Gennaro mystery series. I remember going to a book signing, probably for Shutter Island, at the Borders in Braintree, Massachusetts many years ago. The question that was asked first and that was foremost in Dennis Lehane's readers's minds was "When are you going to write another Kenzie-Gennaro mystery?"

The disappointment in the store was palpable when he answered, "When they tell me there's another story to tell. So far, they haven't been speaking to me."

Although most people will think of Mystic River when they hear the name of Dennis Lehane, mystery readers had discovered him years before through this literary mystery series. When I read A Drink Before the War, the first book in the series, I was most impressed with the characters. Good guys weren't all good. Bad guys weren't all bad. The people who populate Lehane's Boston are complex, with ribbons of good and evil lacing through their personalities. They're people you could actually know, not idealized characters in a novel. Well, except maybe for Bubba.

Ten years later, reading Moonlight Mile was like coming home and finding the people you knew and remembered fondly still there; a little older, but still the people you remember. I'm not going to go into the details of the plot. You can read the summary on Barnes and Noble or Goodreads or Amazon. The case from Gone, Baby, Gone comes back to haunt them one more time. There's unfinished business there, which we all felt when we finished the book, but we learned to live with the ambiguity over the years.

There have been a lot of reviews criticizing Lehane for having the characters change from what they were ten years ago. I think the criticism is unwarranted. Patrick and Angie have gotten older. They have a house and a child and responsibilities. They've matured just like they would have if they were real people. You can't expect people to take the risks and live the crazy lifestyle of their youth as they age. Not that there isn't plenty of risk and action in this book. The difference is Patrick worries about the risks he takes, the consequences to his family if he fails. And that's what a man with responsibilities would do.

I found this a very satisfying end to this series. I hope Dennis Lehane can come up with a new book to rival it for his next work.
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