Monday, January 17, 2011

Staff Review: Moonlight Mile

Book Cover

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

Let me start by saying that this is a tough review for me to write. Moonlight Mile is the long awaited and possibly final entry in one of my all-time favorite crime fiction series. I opened this book with great anticipation, eager to spend a few hundred pages with familiar characters I had missed for some time. I closed it with rather mixed feelings about my old friends – it was great seeing them again, it brought to mind some good memories, but our best days together are in the past.

Dennis Lehane burst onto the “mainstream” fiction scene in 2001 with Mystic River, a book that saw great success in both bookstores and movie theaters. But before the success of that and his subsequent book, Shutter Island, Lehane had won a legion of followers in the crime fiction world for his series featuring private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. Starting with A Drink Before The War, Lehane introduced Kenzie, a wise-cracking, tough-talking Boston P.I., and his partner Gennaro, an equally tough character and his oldest friend. In this and the next five books in the series, Lehane treated readers to some of the best contemporary American crime fiction, with fully-realized, delightfully flawed characters, authentic portrayals of the gritty streets of South Boston, and page-turning plots that reveal the human costs of criminal actions.

Moonlight Mile opens several years after the end of Gone, Baby, Gone (which was also made into a movie), the crimes and characters of which were some of the most heart-wrenching Patrick and Angie had ever encountered. The pair have since settled down into a quieter, domestic life when Amanda McCready, the little girl who was kidnapped and then found by Patrick in Gone, Baby, Gone, disappears once again. She is now a teenager and Patrick’s role in her early childhood has forever bound him to her, so he feels compelled to take on the case and find her once again. The case unfolds with many of the hallmarks of Lehane’s writing – emotionally compelling characters, morally ambiguous situations, and an insider’s tour of working-class Boston.

So what’s my complaint? Compared to earlier entries in the series, Moonlight Mile seemed a little “thin” to me – the characters were closer to caricatures, the dialogue, usually raw and acerbic, came off as a bit forced, and the overall tone of the book seemed somewhat rushed, as if Mr. Lehane just wanted to get it over with. Fans of the series have been asking him for more than a decade to write another one, so he may have simply gotten tired of being asked about it on every single book tour for his other, stand alone novels.

After reading Moonlight Mile, I still consider Dennis Lehane to be one of the best authors writing today, regardless of genre. I still consider the Kenzie-Gennaro series to be one of the best contemporary crime fiction series. Even though the final book does not come highly recommended by me, the series as a whole certainly does. If you’re interested, here’s the series order:

Susan - Adult Services

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