on November 8, 2003
This is a very well rounded novel. Dennis Lehane has gained alot of steam with each new book and I think this is my favorite of the Kenzie/Gennaro series. I wasn't quite as in love with it as Mystic River, mostly because of the extreme violence and gore it contains but the writing is very solid. The characters are very well fleshed out and real and I liked the bad guys as much as the good guys...and often it was hard to tell which was which! The key here is the moral dilemma this story unfolds and it's brilliant! The ending was perfect and while emotionally I'm in the same camp with Angie I totally understand Patrick's decision. Maybe the most terrifying thing about this book is the recognition of the horror of child abuse and neglect in our culture. It's not too difficult to imagine taking the law into your own hands after witnessing the moral deprivation described in this book regarding children...and thus the dilemma! It's really a great, thoughtful and disturbing read!
on July 1, 2004
Of the three Kenzie/Gennaro novels I have read, this was the most entertaining, if one can describe kidnapping of a child and abuse of kidnapped children by some of the most twisted people in our society "entertaining." Amanda McCready, a four year old, has been kidnapped and her aunt and uncle have sought out the dynamic duo to see if she can be found. They work out a tenuous and sometimes tense relationship with the detectives who are in charge of the investigation, yet little or no progress in finding the little girl occurs. At the half way point in the book, Patrick summarizes what they have accomplished (or not). "This was one of the most infuriating cases I'd ever worked. Absolutely nothing made sense. A four year old girl disappears. Investigation leads us to believe that the child was kidnapped by drug dealers who'd been ripped off by the mother. A ransom demand for the stolen money arrives from a woman who seems to work for the drug dealers. The ransom drop is an ambush. The drug dealers are killed. One of the drug dealers may or may not be an undercover operative for the federal government. The missing girl remains missing or at the bottom of a quarry."
As it turns out, the answers are hiding in plain sight, yet it takes time, lives and luck to eventually come up with them.
This is no Mystic River (few are) but, it is a good story, well told.
on January 7, 2003
In the last 30 day I've read all five of Lehane' Kinzie/Gennaro books, finishing Prayers for Rain last night. Lehane has created a terrific franchise in the mystery/thriller arena with his realistic and (more importantly) entertaining pair of detectives. You like these people he's created and believe their motives for what they choose to do as they trek through the plot. Clearly I've found a lot of compelling entertainment in these stories.
The first book in the series, A Drink Before the War, really [drew] me in, being in the same vein as the Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais which I also recommend. Both series are consistently well-written, a clear step (or two) above pop/trash/beach fiction, funny, intelligent stories where the plot make sense, and the characters seem frighteningly real. It turned out that the first Kinzie/Gennaro yarn was the lightest. Each one after has ratcheted up the twists and turns, but kept the personality of the characters growing and building. The stories definitely got blacker and bleaker in the depraved actions of the bad guys. By Prayers for Rain, the villain is a hardcore-fulltime psychopath, and Patrick and Angie are a-little-further-than-borderline vigilantes.
After racing through five of the books in so short a period, I am struck with a sense of vulnerability. If some bad dude makes it their career to mess with you, and if they have no normal limits to their behavior, you're just [out of luck]. How can a normal, follow the rules type of citizen even comprehend the introduction of aggression and violence into their regular lives? Unless you have friends to help you out like Kenzie and Gennaro you might as well move out of the country and hope you're never found. Read these, you'll like them.
on October 13, 2001
Reading about the scum of humanity that Lehane's Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro come up against is like watching a David Fincher movie. It's all grit staring you right in the face with unflinching honesty.The fourth book in the detective series has the duo searching for a missing child. In true Lehane fashion, there are more twists than a crazy straw, and the plot gets deeper and deeper and more horrifying as the truth comes out. Luckily there's the character of Bubba to add some needed comic relief to the story. A story that's hard to put down, and harder to shake when you finish it.
When PIs Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are asked by the McCreadys to find their four-year-old niece, Patrick or Angie turn them down. After all, the police are on the case and these seasoned PIs know the emotional price to pay if things turn out badly. But Beatrice McCready's refusal to accept no and other circumstances gradually cause a change of heart. The more questions Patrick and Angie ask, though, the more disturbing the situation, and the more dangerous the truth.
What starts as a straightforward plot in Gone Baby Gone, becomes an increasingly complicated story with every twist and turn. In part, this is a grim portrayal of life for some children in the real world, and if it wasn't for Dennis Lehane's elegant writing it'd be a hard novel to read.
As it was, it took me a long time to gather the courage to read Gone Baby Gone. The novel arrived on my TBR pile when my children were young. Now that they're 21 and 15, I felt ready to read Dennis Lehane, and I'm glad I did. Yes, the book was emotionally difficult at times, but the subject of child abduction was handled with passion, compassion, and a writing style that kept me turning the pages. People have recommended more of Lehane's books to me. This time, I won't wait so long to read them.
on December 26, 2007
Having read "A Drink Before the War" and putting it down after the first few pages, I was hesitant to read this one. But then I figured, what the heck, they made a movie, it might be alright. I was wrong.
It's hard to believe (impossible, in fact) that this story came from the same author who wrote "Mystic River," one of my all-time favourites. "Gone Baby Gone" started off well. The prologue was intruiging and the first page of chapter one was interesting also (hence the two-star rating instead of one), but as soon as Patrick Kenzie's narrative kicked in on page two, the book took a rapid turn for the worst. The writing was flat and laboured with an annoying overuse of strained analogies. Example (one of many): "I shifted my weight slightly in my chair so that my elbow had more leverage on the bar in case I had to bob or weave suddenly and waited for the guy to make whatever move was floating through his head like a cancer cell."
Eh? What in the world does that mean? Is that a sentence? I couldn't help feeling that I was listening to a high school kid trying to pass himself off as a deep-thinking adult. Painful.
This might have been a good story, maybe a great one, had it been written in a third-person narrative, rather than the annoying voice of Patrick Kenzie. But I don't know. Like "A Drink Before the War," I gave up after the first 50 pages or so.
If you want to read Lehane at his best, pick up "Mystic River" or "Shutter Island." Then wait for his next one.
on May 5, 2003
Dennis Lehane, Gone, Baby, Gone (Morrow, 1998)
Lehane clocks in with the fourth novel in the Kenzie and Gennaro series with his most intricate plot and satisfying novel so far. In this one, Kenzie and Gennaro are bullied into taking the case of a missing four-year-old by the girl's aunt. The mother seems not to care much about her child's whereabouts when she's not in front of the TV cameras, preferring to watch television and drink beer with her best friend and next door neighbor. What's already an atypical missing persons case gets weirder and weirder as Kenzie and Gennaro, working with a couple of Boston cops named Poole and Broussard, peel off layer after layer that links the case to organized crime, drug dealing, a two-hundred-thousand dollar heist, and imprisoned renegade mob boss Cheese Olamon, a schoolyard acquaintance of Kenzie's.
While the moralizing of A Drink Before the War is back (though far more subdued here) and Lehane seems to buy into the urban myth of the ever-present Child Molester on Every Corner, such concerns for the intent of the author tend to fall by the wayside when a mystery is so intricately plotted. Red herrings fly thick and fast, the case twists and turns with startling frequency, no one is in any way happy, and ghosts of old cases the two have worked return to haunt them with regularity as they bump heads over and over again with higher-ups in the Boston and state police departments. It is the skill with which the mystery is plotted, and Lehane's affable writing style, that keeps this book from falling into the one-trick-pony trap of a Jonathan Kellerman or an Andrew Vachss. Lehane finally made a solid name for himself with the success of Mystic River two years ago; here's to hoping fans of that novel will come back and discover the Kenzie and Gennaro novels, some of the best neo-noir writing there is to be had today. ****
on September 26, 2002
There were some very good parts to this book. I found much of the dialogue very amusing, which is refreshing for mystery novels which tend to be so bogged down with cliches that are taken too seriously and immature writing that tries so hard to get a laugh but fails entirely. Lehane is witty. However, I don't like his characters. I found them to be rather one-dimensional, Angie being the worst. It would have been better without the female protagonist; it would have been better to lean toward sexism, than put her in there. All the characters seemed to come across as caricatures, right down to their names, but characters in these kind of mystery novels generally tend to be underdeveloped, perhaps because so many are thrown in there, and before you really get to know one, you're learning about another. As for the main characters, it's a series, so I guess I should read the other books before I pass a judgment. Apparently, from what I heard about Lehane's Mystic River, the characters were rather good in that novel. Perhaps I read his one book that didn't really showcase his character development skills.
My favorite part of the book was the ending. It just struck me. I disagree with those who say that it was out of character for Patrick Kenzie to make the final choice he did at the end. Also, it shows that his main objective throughout the book was not doing what was right, but rather, bringing Amanda home, despite how he felt about the way he went about it. Overall, a good book. It's just that Amanda had more personality than the rest, and she was only in 1/20th of the book.
on June 24, 2002
Gone, Baby, Gone is one of Lehane's best Kenzie/Gennaro books, even though its subject matter, the kidnapping and abuse of children, isn't particularly sunny. Patrick and Angela are called on to investigate the disappearance of four-year-old Amanda McCready, who lives with an awful, distracted, zero of a mother. Her inattention to her daughter and her needs is painted so vividly that it is easy to hope that, wherever she is, Amanda's life is somehow better. This disappearance leads the detectives into a morass of drug dealers and pedophiles and crooked police.
Ultimately, it all leads to a gripping, heart-breaking climax that is pretty much a no-win situation for all involved. Sure, there are some contrivances in the plot that bring us to this point--as other reviewers have pointed out--but this is still one heck of a powerful book, with vivid characters and a real sense of setting and community. We can see how the neighborhood gives birth to monsters like Cheese Olamon and Angie's and Patrick's "friend" Bubba, while others choose another route for their lives. This is a step up from the previous book, Sacred, and shows Lehane getting ready for the powerhouse book to come, Mystic River.
on May 12, 2001
When Beatrice McCready and her husband ask Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro to help find a missing niece, the detective partners immediately realize that they do not want this case. At the end of three days, police have failed to turn up even a minor lead to the missing Amanda. Helene, Amanda's mother, is a drug addict and alcoholic who has raised the four-year-old child in near total neglect. This was a case with few possible good endings.
Kenzie and Gennaro are unable to resist Beatrice's pleas, though, and thus begins the harrowing tale of "Gone, Baby, Gone." As they dig away at a trail that leads to dead-end bars, drug dealers in prison and hints of child abuse the two detectives tease away at the mystery. When a shoot-out in a quarry nearly kills the detective team, the two realize that they are up against an evil that will stop at nothing to keep Amanda's fate a secret. An evil that corrupts everything it touches.
"Gone, Baby, Gone" is the grimmest of the Kenzie and Gennaro series. While not the most violent or horrific of the series, it eats away at you steadily as the detectives untangle Amanda's story. The fine narrative style and sparkling dialogue that marks a Lehane story draw you in and mesmerize you, but the little voice in your head never forgets that at the heart of this crime is a young child. You share in the anguish as betrayal destroys friendship, as right becomes wrong and relationships are strained to the breaking point.
Lehane has once again written the perfect balance between psychological thriller and devastating action story. "Gone, Baby, Gone" is not for the fainthearted. Long time Lehane fans will know what to expect, but newcomers might want to read some earlier novels in the series. This is intense noir fiction at it's best.