Friday, September 2, 2011

Gone, Baby, Gone, by Dennis Lehane

Denis Lehane first hit my radar when I read his book Shutter Island (which is an read, trust me).  That’s when I found out that he had also written the book Mystic River (and I remember watching and liking the Sean Penn movie by the same name a few years ago as well).  So, when I found out that he was also responsible for Gone, Baby, Gone (I movie that I haven’t seen yet), I snapped up a copy at my local Chapters.  And boy, am I glad I did.  Most of my reviews so far have indicated that I've been finding my reads a little ho-hum, but not this time, folks.  This time, we’re damn-near close to a rave review.

Gone, Baby, Gone is the fourth novel about a pair of detectives, Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro.  (I have yet to read books 1-3, or 5, but I’ll be at Chapters today to pick them up, that’s how much I enjoyed this read).  Following their investigation into the disappearance of a four year-old girl, Lehan plot revolves around Boston’s inner-cities ghettos, the drug world, and child exploitation.  Masterfully, Lehan takes his reader along on an undulating series of plot climaxes and dénouements, which ultimately concludes with a serious surprise.  (If I do have one criticism, it would be that the actual conclusion to the story is a little tame compared to some of the potential ending-points Lehan had built into the rest of the novel.)

Patrick and Angie are complexly written and entirely relatable characters.  These are the type of characters that you wish would walk off the page and share a drink with you.  Still tightly connected to the ‘old-neighborhood,’ Angie and Patrick (but more so Patrick) are in the perfect position to straddle both the law-abiding and under-worlds, giving the characters an almost all-access pass to both, which also includes the reader.  While this odd dynamic has the potential to create ham-fisted plot developments in a novel, Lehan wields it carefully and with a level of care that makes it plausible and effective.  Moreover, Lehane’s supporting cast of characters are equally dynamic and engaging – from the drug mule to the division lieutenant, Lehane is able to write his characters with enough empathy and realism to make them all engaging.

Nearing the end of the novel, I was worried that Lehane had taken a serious misstep that was going to ruin it for me.  At one point, two characters are sitting having a deep philosophical discussion on the state of society.  My problem wasn’t that the characters weren’t the type of people to do so, it was that the writing got a little (slightly, just a smidge) corny at that point.  I resented that Lehane seemed to interrupt the flow of his plot to introduce this odd discussion, but in the end, it was crucial to the wrap up of the story.  It wasn’t until the last few-dozen pages or so that I recognized the importance of that conversation, and all seemed right in my literary world again.  Lesson learnt: trust Lehane and follow him wherever he goes.

All in all, I am going to be pimping this book to everyone I know for a lonnnnggg time.  Well, almost everyone: people with children should never, ever read this book.  I’m not what you would call and ‘kid-person,’ but there are multiple points where the plot takes a twist or something is revealed that almost broke my brain.  I can just imaging what someone with children would feel like if they read this book.  Having said that, all non-breeders looking for a good read should check out Gone, Baby, Gone. 

Update: To read my reviews on the rest of the Kenzi/Gennero novels, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Having read Mystic River which was good, Shutter Island which was confusing and not good, I was pleasantly surprised. This was the first of his books with the main characters that I had read. Good chaaracters, good plot, good ending.