Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before The War


Kenzie and Gennaro are private investigators in the blue-collar neighborhoods and ghettos of South Boston-they know it as only natives can. Working out of an old church belfry, Kenzie and Gennaro take on a seemingly simple assignment for a prominent politician: to uncover the whereabouts of Jenna Angeline, a black cleaning woman who has allegedly stolen confidential state documents. Finding Jenna, however, is easy compared to staying alive once they've got her. The investigation escalates, implicating members of Jenna's family and rival gang leaders while uncovering extortion, assassination, and child prostitution extending from bombed-out ghetto streets to the highest levels of government.

A Drink Before the War, the first in Lehane's acclaimed series with Boston detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, is a remarkable debut that is at once a pulsating crime thriller and a mirror of our world, one in which the worst human horrors are found closest to home, and the most vicious obscenities are committed in the name of love.
Dennis Lehane’s A Drink Before The War is an expertly crafted neo-noir mystery set in contemporary Boston.  Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie the novel’s narrator and main investigator is a descendant of Spade and Marlowe.  A justifiable cynical observer of human nature with a clear distain for those he is forced to work for. 
Kenzie’s partner Angie Gennaro is a terrific supporting player, not fitting the mold of most female characters, and is a fully developed equal of Kenzie.  Beyond the great depths of A Drink Before The War’s investigators is the simple matter of fact brutality, of the Boston area they inhabit.  Lehane’s tale weaves through domestic violence, racial animosity, poverty cycles, sexual assault and plausible political corruption(none of this conspiracy to assassinate the president shit) without ever proselytizing.  Lehane allows the inhumanity of man to stand alone, and force the reader to reconcile the reflection of the world they live in.  In this Dennis Lehane is the true successor to old detective pulp masters, who were very clearly dismayed with the world beyond their window, yet unable or unwilling to look away. 
The mystery itself, concerns a group of powerful political men in search of an ex-employee who absconded with their property is simple and masterful in its composition.  Lehane does not ask his reader for large leaps of logic, and keeps the mystery simple and human in its elements. 
Lehane’s action sequences are well constructed and give the reader a clear sense of fluid movement (even in a car chase sequence, which I always find quite difficult.).  However toward the end of the novel the gun battles come a bit too frequently for my taste. 
In the End;
Dennis Lehane’s A Drink Before the War is a noble successor to the classics of detective pulp.  Lehane has crafted an excellent mystery with fully formed characters, in the muck of the world today.  Highly recommended.  

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