on April 10, 2001
Like most readers of this genre, I crave the wry comments on humanity, the suspense and the action that are endemic to mystery/suspense novels. I found this book especially worthy because the depravity of the villian was believeable and thus truly chilling. Most 'evil' protagonists in thrillers are simply too outlandish or stereotypic to actually cause the reader to reflect on the role of evil in the 'real' world. Here, Dennis Lehane presents an evil presence that 'feels' real and haunting. Some of the plot twists are manipulative and predictable (e.g. the inevitable 'shootout'), but that is easily excused when one considers the fine writing and psychologic insight on display. We have all read books in which the PI is flawed, introspective and humorous, but rarely has one been so unapologetic about his human inconsistencies. A great read. I enjoyed it much more than the only other Lehane book that I have read, 'Gone, Baby, Gone.' I felt that book had a needlessly complicated plot.
on March 4, 2001
First of all, the BIG error: in one scene, the main character Pat Kenzie is taken by Bubba to see a mob guy, who then warns him off pursuing his main target. This mob guy is prepared to kill Bubba, who he describes as a close friend and 'good earner', if Kenzie doesn't take a step back. We are led to believe, therefore, that this target's hold over the mob guy is very strong. We then learn a chapter later that in fact the mob guy hardly knows the target, was merely paid $10,000 to warn Kenzie off. Now, if Bubba was indeed a valued friend and 'good earner', there's no way a mob guy is going to take him out for just $10,000. A 'good earner' would imply that Bubba's putting fifty thou a year or more on his table, otherwise the mob guy just wouldn't notice. Also, Bubba would be no easy target (this scene builds up how even a lot of the mob guys fear him), the risks would be considerable. So he might start thinking about wasting him for $100,000 or more, but below that I think this particular part of the plot just doesn't hold water - it's just something else thrown in quickly to add to the tension.
Having said that (and really, this is something that a good editor should have picked up on), this book has great pace and some of the snappiest (and funniest) dialogue to be found on the bookshelves. So only one star off for not making the mobster scene work.
on February 19, 2001
Dennis Lehane has created one of the very best hard boiled-and-hip private investigator series in contemporary literature, the Boston-set adventures of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, plus their brutal-but-lovable sidekick, Bubba. All of the books in the series have been exemplary, and in most ways, *Prayers for Rain* is no exception. The plot is gripping, the villain is reprehensible, and there are enough twists in the story to keep readers fascinated right up until the slightly ambiguous and discordant ending.
So for those who have followed the series from its beginnings with *A Drink Before the War* (and reading the books in order is definitely the way to go here), I would certainly recommend that they read this book, as surely they will enjoy it.
HOWEVER--I did develop some reservations this time around. There were three aspects of *A Prayer for Rain* that I found annoying. First, Lehane gives every impression here of having visions that, like Robert Parker's Spenser, Kenzie and Gennaro might someday grace their very own television series. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but the increasingly macho behavior of Kenzie, including in-you-face posturing in face-to-face encounters with his villains seems just a tad too similar to scenes from "Nash Bridges." I suspect that he would have gone ahead and called his adversary "Bubba," were it not for the fact that one of the main characters in the novels already has claimed this name.
And Bubba--ah, yes. He's an interesting and in some ways lovable kind of sidekick character, but when he is brought front and center in the story, as he has this time around, the ridiculous nature of his *persona* becomes uncomfortably clear. As another reviewer commented, he is a veritable cartoon character, a person who is real life would really be a kind of psychopathic monster. Yet here he is portrayed not only as a kind of super-male "warrior"-hero, but a kind of warm-and-fuzzy one who engages in completely unlikely romantic conquests (I won't give away the details here), a feature which I would think many women readers would find kind of offensive.
The third flaw is a kind of minor thing, but it annoyed me just the same. Lehane clearly has a strongly male persective in his approach to relationships and to women in general, and this becomes a limitation on the effectiveness of his writing sometimes. For example, his idealized female protagonist, Angela, comes across as a fairly shallow character much of the time, and on occasion Lehane puts words and sentiments in her mouth which are pretty ridiculous. For example, Angie postulates that Bubba's magnetism with regard to even the most cool and intellectual of women is attributed in part to the fact that he is "hung," a fact that women allegedly can always tell, no matter what a man is wearing. Give me a break, folks.
I know, picky, picky. Overall, this novel stands head and shoulders above most others in this genre, and fans of the previous books certainly should go ahead and read it. But I think that there is a tiredness to the Kenzie-Gennaro series by this point, and I suspect that Lehane himself agreed, since his newest book, *Mystic River*, has a different set of characters.
on July 28, 2000
PRAYERS FOR RAIN Dennis LeHane Harper Torch - May 2000 ISBN: 0380730367 Buy a Copy
Karen Nichols is a very pretty young lady who has a problem with a stalker, so she turns to Boston P.I. Patrick Kenzie to solve her problem. Kenzie and his sociopathic sidekick and guardian angel, Bubba Ragowski, solve Karen's problem very quickly and he figures that he has heard the end of Karen Nichols. But six months later he hears that she has jumped naked off the observation deck of Boston's Custom House and that she was drugged up when she jumped. The fact that this did not fit in with his impression of Karen and that she had called him shortly before her death and he never returned her call made Kenzie feel compelled to look into what went wrong in the last few months of her life. With the help of Bubba and Angie Gennaro, they uncover that Karen was into drugs, prostitution, had some dreadful family secrets, and a madman that knows how to manipulate the minds and lives of his victims until suicide was a welcome relief. As the plot twists through layers of old deceit and current corruption, the victims multiply while the killer remains elusive, protected by the terror he inspires.
Prayers For Rain is well written with dialogue that is gritty and true to life. The scenes are so vivid that the hair on the back of your neck will stand straight on end--a real page-turner from the beginning to the outstanding ending. This book has graphic violence and the darkest of dark humor. The villain in this book is one of the slipperiest and most evil characters you will ever read about.
on May 15, 2000
I may be going against the prevailing opinion here, but I found Prayers for Rain a bit of a letdown after Gone, Baby, Gone. Make no mistake, Lehane is a fantastic writer, and he really distinguishes himself in his intricate plotting. To me, most writers in this genre break down into two major categories: action/suspense and mystery. Lehane is clearly in the former category, but his novels have amazingly twisted plots. I love Robert B. Parker's Spenser, but he's clearly for relaxation, whereas Lehane combines edge-of-the-seat action with truly intense mystery. Having said all this, I don't think this book is quite up to the standard of the last few. For one thing, Lehane strikes me as trying to push a little too hard to get Patrick Kenzie personally motivated and involved. I can see Lehane getting into a "can you top this" mode wherein each successive book needs to have greater threats to Patrick and those he cares about. It's not necessary to put the characters in these situations just to get an emotional response. Also, given the profound rupture in Patrick and Angie's relationship at the end of Gone, Baby, Gone, their inevitable re-involvement in Prayers for Rain seemed to come about way too easily. I think this might be the classic couple where they're more interesting apart than together. Anyway, I enjoyed reading the book thoroughly, with a few reservations. I hope Lehane tries a change of pace novel like Sacred, the third book in the series, next. For those of you who haven't read it, I highly recommend that one.
on May 5, 2000
When Karen Nichols hired Boston PI Patrick Kenzie about a problem with a stalker, his impression of her was that of a wholesome, wide-eyed, corn-fed Mary Poppins clone. Patrick solves her problem, gets paid, and thinks little more about her 'til she ends up an ostensible suicide. But what on earth was Mary Poppins doing stoned out of her head and hooking out of a seedy motel? As Patrick pokes around a bit and meets her exceedingly weird family, he learns that Karen had been the victim of an unholy run of bad luck over the last months of her life, bad luck which appears to have been carefully orchestrated by some unseen puppetmaster. He has no client, ergo no fees, but Patrick feels compelled to find out what happened. As his non-case gets progessively more bizarre, to say nothing of dangerous, Patrick's erstwhile partner and lover, Angela Gennaro, joins forces with him. Add to this volatile mix psycho-teddybear Bubba Ragowski and the bad guy is about to have a major hurt put on him -- if they can find him before he destroys them. The villain in this story is one of the slipperiest, most evil characters seen in recent fiction. This is a true nail-biter and is guaranteed to induce chills and thrills as the chase to stop the evil proceeds at a breakneck pace. The suspense level is in the red zone. There is violence, some of it graphic, but such is the nature of this genre. There is a noir ambience to this book and, like all of Lehane's novels, it sparkles because the grit and the wit are presented in a stylish, literary fashion that is a pure joy to read. The novels of Dennis Lehane are gifts -- indulge yourself!
on May 2, 2000
Patrick Kenzie only met Karen Nichols once but the impression he got of her was one of a happy, pretty, young woman with everything going for her. Six months later, the news of her sucide sends Patrick on a personal crusade to find out what drove the young woman to madness. Teaming up with partner Angela Gennaro, and his tough, crazy friend Bubba...He begins uncovering drugs, prostitution and horrible family secrets all contributed to Karen's suicide.
The deeper he goes into her life he finds a madman, whose thrill is not killing people but making them WISH they were dead, was responsible for Karen's demise, and now the madman is set out to destroy Patrick.
I will not go further into detail on the plot...All of the fun is discovering it as you go.
The pacing is FAST, the dialogue RAZOR-SHARP, the characters FASCINATING and the end SHOCKING.
If you have not discovered Dennis Lehane, do yourself a favor and read him, he is a master at creating Mystery/Suspense novels.
on December 18, 1999
I read an average of two books a week and I never felt a need to recommend any author. I read all of Dennis Lehane's books, except A Drink Before the War and I'm waiting for a responsibility free weekend to read it so I won't have to put it down. I read Sacred twice and found it just as amazing the second time as the first. Dennis Lehane's characters really are characters but they are totally believable. Patrick Kenzie, as the main character, tells you the story but he doesn't make himself an invincible hero, just a guy you wouldn't want to date, but would feel lucky to have as a friend. Angie, as his partner, is, of course, beautiful but even with her aggressive, sometimes belligerent attitude, she's human too, staying in an abusive relationship for 12 years. Bubba, although he's a psychotic criminal, has a soft, fuzzy side that's really likable (from a distance). Some won't like the graphic violence in Prayers or Darkness but I think the media has made us jaded enough to deal with it within the context of the stories. I didn't read the stories in order but I think each book is well written enough to stand on its own. I'm wondering how long Dennis Lehane will be able to keep the series going and hoping one new book a year for the next 20 or 30 years isn't too much to ask.
on June 23, 1999
I LOVE reading Dennis Lehane's novels, and I love his main characters: Patrick, Angie, & Bubba. I feel like I know them now, and I also feel like I can count on Lehane to be authentic to their characaters, through action and dialogue and interaction. The main characters are flawed, but good at the core, and strive to work for right. There's something I find very satisfying in that basic goal.
When I first discovered Dennis Lehane a few years ago when his third novel was published, I was hooked. I immediately went back and read his first two. And since then I have been waiting very impatiently for each new book.
What do I like best about his books? His multi-faceted main characters, the way he exposes the dark side of humankind while not burying us in it or leaving us feeling hopeless, the snappy and witty dialogue of all characters, (especially between Patrick & Angie), and his creativity and inventiveness. His descriptions have a way of making me feel like I really know the character or the place or the feeling. Being from Massachusetts, I also enjoy having a first-hand sense of place. And that he ventured off to Plymouth in this novel was even better as I live only 15 minutes away from Plymouth.
I just hope he gives us more of Angie & Patrick & Bubba. (Good to see that Bubba is made more real and multi-dimensional in this book.) They are great characters, and the stories always make me think. Thanks, Dennis.
on May 15, 1999
Private Investigators Patrick Kenzie and Bubba Rogowski are very proud of the simple persuasion they used to make Cody Falk stop stalking their client Karen Nichols. Over the next six months, instead of celebrating her victory, Karen's life falls apart. Suddenly, Karen becomes headlines for the Globe as she jumps from the Customs House tower. The police officially call it suicide after an apparent run of bad luck.
A stunned Patrick obsesses over his former client's death. He learns that a car hit her fiancé and she lost her job and apartment. The coincidences pile up to the point that Murphy would not believe it possible. Patrick enlists the help of his former partner and estranged lover Angela Gennaro. They soon begin to realize that an insidious murderer uses his victim's minds by manipulating events in their lives till they cannot take any more. Still, the killer and his associates appear to be above the law unless Patrick and company can find a way to stop him before they become the next victims.
With his fifth novel, Dennis Lehane clearly proves that he sits at the apex of the modern urban Noir. His current novel, PRAYERS FOR RAIN, is a superb, but frightening tale that turns justice on its head. No one does Boston (including the Red Sox) better than Mr. Lehane. The lead trio continues to be an interesting, warm mix while the support cast provides insight into the city. The main villain may prove to be the top culprit of the year. A great novel that will bring many new fans to Mr. Lehane.