Gone, Baby, Gone and both Ben and Ellen said "You want more Kenzi/Gennaro? Read Darkness, Take My Hand". Now you've probably noticed that this book is not Darkness. How very astute of you. But you see, I found a copy of both A Drink Before the War and Darkness, Take My Hand in a single book. And seeing how this one is the first in the Kenzi/Gennaro series, I figured start at the beginning.
Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are friends and business partners, private investigators, operating out of the neighborhood church in Dorchester, a working class neighborhood just outside Boston. The pair are hired by state politicians to locate a cleaning woman who previously worked at the state house and is suspected to have made off with some documents. It seems simple enough but of course if it was simple enough it would be a very short story. Instead the pair find themselves in the middle of a gang war and a government scandal.
Lehane's style is brutal in a beautiful way. It has graphic, violent moments, but they don't make up the whole novel. They are shocking but they aren't there just to shock you. They make a point about how evil some people can be. Or can become. He doesn't seem to write books that make you feel great about your fellow man, even if they have a "happy" ending. And I feel safe telling you about that "happy" ending because you can at least be sure that Kenzie and Gennaro make it out of this book alive. You know, because this is the first in a series and the series would be awkward if the main characters were both killed in the first book. But "the main characters in a series of books don't die" is pretty much the happiest thing I can say happens.
The book was great. It was compelling, disgusting, upsetting, sometimes funny (in a gallows humor kind of way), and moving. It's a book that made me want to keep going, to know what happens next. If you've read any Lehane before, I probably don't have to try to convince you to check this out. If you haven't but have seen the movies (either Mystic River or Gone, Baby, Gone. I haven't seen Shutter Island so I can't speak to that one) then I also probably don't have to convince you to check this out. You know what you're in for so I can just tell you this is fantastic. And I always like to see where series characters start out. If you've never read Lehane before or seen movies based on his books, just know his stuff is dark, his stuff is violent and his stuff is good.
Title quote from page 113
Lehane, Dennis. A Drink Before The War. Harper Collins, 1994