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 sucked 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 screwed. 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 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.
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 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 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 June 3, 2004
This was my first venture w/this series by the author and I might have benefitted from reading the four previous novels involving Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro as some of the interplay between them alluded to previous matters. My first Lehane experience was Mystic River which, in my opinion, is a stand alone classic. This is a different breed of cat, but an interesting one, nonetheless.
Kenzie has helped a young woman who claimed that a man from her gym was stalking her and that he had in fact trashed her car. This matter is easily set right by Kenzie and his side-kick and protector, Bubba Rogowski. A few months later the young lady jumps naked from the 24th story of the Custom House Tower in Boston. Kenzie feels some moral responsibility to look in to the matter as he had neglected to return a call from the woman before heading of to Bermuda with a tempoary romantic interest and when he got back he had forgotten to call.
His looking into the matter sets him on a chilling course of events which are better read than described here. Kenzie/Gennaro/Rodowski make a formidable and somewhat entertaining team, although some of the diologue and situations strain credulity a bit. All in all, a read that you will enjoy and be reluctant to put down until the rather twisted ending is revealed.
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 August 4, 2001
Among the trio of hardboiled male mystery writers who rose in 1990s -- Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and Dennis Lehane -- you can sort them along a continuum: Connelly is the edgiest and grimmest, while Crais is the one with the most wisecracks. Lehane falls in between, but leans more toward Crais despite some pretty dark works ("Darkness, Take My Hand" and "Sacred").
"Prayers for Rain" is the most recent of the series (start with "A Drink Before the War") and as it opens, the narrator (Patrick Kenzie) is operating his P.I. agency alone. He used to have a partner (Angela Gennaro), but they split over events depicted in "Gone Baby Gone."
Kenzie takes care of a stalking matter for a female client with little problem. Four months later, she leaves him a message asking him to call, but he blows her off. Two months after that, she commits suicide. Feeling guilty, Kenzie delves into the mess to find out why she would kill herself.
Doing so draws into a confrontation with a psychopath who gets his kicks from making people's lives so miserable they wish they were dead. The psychopath turns his attention to Kenzie, and a war of misery ensues.
There's no denying that Lehane is a talented writer, and that his books draw you into the dark streets of Boston. The interaction between Kenzie and Gennaro is fun, but at times the dialogue is downright corny, like something you'd expect from children. Of course, the reality is that in real life, people who are in love will talk like that to each other, but still, reading it in a book, it seems silly.
So, the question is, what are you looking for in a mystery? Crais' books are fluffier (though still violent), Connelly's much darker and edgier, and Lehane's a compromise. Pick your poison.
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 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.