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by Dennis Lehane
Harper, September 2007
448 pages
ISBN: 0061374199

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Dennis Lehane (author of GONE BABY GONE) is a name that kept popping up for me. I’d heard it at cocktails parties, read it in online book discussions, even saw it in a book about current authors whose first edition novels are worth collecting for the future. In short, I was intrigued by whether Dennis Lehane could live up to the hype surrounding his 'street cred' in the book world. With the reissue of his fourth-in-a-series novel about PIs Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro into mass market (because of the release of a new movie based on GONE BABY GONE), I just could not resist determining for myself whether Dennis Lehane was as good of a writer as everyone claimed.

I am happy to report that GONE BABY GONE is a stunning novel, filled with gritty, real world criminals and a police department that knows how to play by the rules of the streets, in this case those of working class Boston. When Amanda McCready, the four-year-old daughter of a reckless, alcoholic mother goes missing, the Boston Police Department’s Crimes Against Children unit goes into action, with Officers Remy Broussard and Nick Raftopoulos (“Poole”) in charge. Meanwhile, Amanda’s aunt and uncle hire on PIs Kenzie and Gennaro, despite their reluctance to take on the case.

What follows in an investigation that travels to the depths of the Boston underworld of drug lords, mob bosses, and those perpetrating child sexual abuse. Of course, nothing is as appears on the surface – not the abduction situation, not the motive, not even the intent of the police department unit assigned to solve the case. Because of the sordid nature of the situation, there is a stunning amount of violence, both against adults and children, in this novel. There is also a lot of by-the-seat-of their-pants action scenes while the detectives investigate the child’s disappearance.

What is most remarkable about the book, and what makes it stand head-and-shoulders above the normal crime novel is the quality of Lehane’s writing. As a reader, I was drawn into the world of Kenzie and Gennaro, their friends and criminal counterparts. Although he presents is with a story consumed with violence on a very hard-to-stomach subject (child abduction and abuse), Lehane never abuses the trust his readers place in him to tell the story. None of the violence feels gratuitous; none of the characters feels false.

Although there is a bit too much of the Boston atmospherics and a reliance on the setting to carry through the story, this is a minor quibble overall. The plot is strong, the characters believable, and the writing itself is spectacular. This is a novel that will be enjoyed by many, especially those coming to the book after seeing the movie, those who have never heard of Lehane or read one of his books before. They will not be disappointed!

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, October 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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