Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's a nasty world out there, and it's never been nice to children

I had only read one Dennish Lehane book, Mystic River, and that I had read for a class. I wasn't avoiding the guy, I just wasn't going after him either. But both Ben from Dead End Follies and Ellen from Fat Books & Thin Women are fans and they each have excellent taste in books, so when I saw a copy of Gone, Baby, Gone sitting on one of the sale tables at my favorite bookstore, The Brookline Booksmith, I decided now was the time to expand my Lehane horizons.

Gone, Baby, Gone is part of the Kenzie/Gennaro series, about two private detectives in the Boston area. It's not the first in their series but it's the first I've read. There are references to past cases that I'm sure are covered in other books (books I plan on checking out) so I suppose I'll find out eventually how important it would have been to read those first. Kenzie and Gennaro reluctantly take a missing child case, after pressed by the girl's aunt. Lehane does not pussy foot around difficult topics and this missing child case puts the PI against drug dealers, rapists, pedophiles and a whole host of other unsavory characters. Especially Helene, Amanda's (missing child) mom. She is both the best and the worst character. One of the most interesting characters to read and the one you most want to stab repeatedly for being so selfish. Amanda was abducted in the middle of the night while her mother left her alone with the door unlocked. She's mostly upset that Amanda missing has messed up her life instead of being terrified for her daughter's well-being. There's a reason it was Amanda's aunt that sought out the help of Kenzie and Gennaro.

I love reading stories when I'm familiar with the location and Gone, Baby, Gone takes place around the Boston area. I didn't spend huge amounts of time in Dorchester and of course Lehane says in the beginning that he changed the geography to suit the stories needs, but there are references to real places and just having a picture of where the Victoria diner or what the South Bay shopping center looks like makes me happy. It's one of the reasons I liked watching The Sopranos so much*. Now granted, Lehane's Boston is much darker and dirtier and more dangerous than I remember actual Boston ever being, but of course if it was cleaner or we ran into more college kids it wouldn't have been the same dark story. Although now I'm picturing the story filled with the bros that lurk around the various campuses in and around Boston and it's making me laugh.

I did have one big problem with the book, but that problem was my fault. Gone, Baby, Gone is a mystery as you try to figure out what happened to Amanda and who could have taken her and how do these drug dealers fit into the equation. This means that trying to untangle the plot and guess what the answer could be is part of the fun. And I already saw the movie**. I thought maybe this wouldn't be too much of a problem because I don't remember too many details. But I remember the last few scenes. So the whole time I was reading the book, even though I couldn't quite remember how we get to that point, I already knew what the outcome was going to be. This meant there was less suspense for me. Less than I knew there would be anyway, if I had no idea how things were going to turn out. However, this fact could also be a positive for the book, since knowing the ending didn't actually ruin the book. It's still an intriguing story and the characters make it worth it, even when you already know how it turns out.

I do plan on reading some more of the Kenzi/Gennaro series. I already have Darkness, Take My Hand selected as my next one, care of Ellen and Ben. I'm not sure exactly when I'll get to it, but I promise it won't be the same 6 year gap between Lehane reads.

*I'm originally from north Jersey.
**The movie's actually very good, though I would recommend checking it out after reading this If you're planning on picking this up that is. Otherwise just see the movie. There's a chance I liked Helene so much because I loved Amy Ryan's performance of her.

Title quote from page 65

Lehane, Dennis. Gone, Baby, Gone. Harper Perennial, 1998.