Friday, February 4, 2011

Moonlight Mile - third time's a charm

Not once, not twice, no, three times I had to download this book to my nook from my library's ebook website in order to finally read it through without having the license disappear on me. Not that it didn't hold my attention - au contraire, mes amis. It's just that I had way too much going at the same time. Yes, I'm still traveling with Charley in my car, hiking in Galilee with Avram and Ora, learning the history of Nanking with Mo Hayder as I walk, and preparing a book discussion about the fall of Saigon - The Lotus Eaters - for March.

So what a respite it was when I put all the others aside and gave a few concentrated days to my man Dennis Lehane, an author my colleagues and I have had our eyes on since our first Southwest Florida Reading Festival, hmmmm, twelve years ago? Oh dear time, where do you go?

I first met Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro in Lehane's debut novel A Drink Before the War and, though you could satisfactorily read the series in any order as stand alones, I don't recommend that. Much like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, Patrick's and Angela's back story is imperative to understanding how they can be happy, pumped even, in such a dangerous line of work. As a pair of unlikely private detectives, their business thrives on the sick underbelly of the Boston area where mob mentality, political corruption, and gang activity run rampant. Even their best friend and protector is a "killer with a heart."

Readers took a shine to Patrick and Angie so when Lehane broke out of the detective fiction box with psychological thrillers like Mystic River and Shutter Island, fans clamored for more about their favorite sleuths. Lehane was in the middle of his huge breakout historical novel, The Given Day, and had apparently moved on, when we suddenly read that yes, he was working on another Kenzie/Gennaro book.

I believe that I can say unequivocally that Lehane wrote Moonlight Mile to bring a satisfying end to the Patrick/Angie series. This novel is a follow up to Gone Baby Gone, in which four-year-old Amanda McCready was kidnapped from her derelict mother, found by Patrick and Angie, who violently disagreed about the right thing to do for Amanda, and ultimately returned  to a drug addled mom because Patrick opted for the law over Angie's desire to follow her gut feelings.

Twelve years later Patrick and Angie are married and the parents of a four-year-old themselves. They are struggling financially while Angie tries to finish up a masters' degree and Patrick plays at being politically correct, working at a large firm that provides much needed health insurance. I love Lehane for the way he always wears his left-leaning politics on his sleeve. Through his characters and their situations he generously shows readers the perils of trying to do the right thing in a less than perfect world.

When Amanda McCready's aunt contacts Patrick to tell him that Amanda, now a sixteen year old on the fast track to a Harvard scholarship, has gone missing again, Patrick and Angie are sucked back into the old life they've been trying so hard to avoid.

Here's where it gets a bit dicey. Suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride. Sure, it's a tad over the top - the Russian mob, a baby selling ring, a lost Russian Orthodox artifact - but the constant smart ass dialogue and the repartee between Patrick and Angie make it a fun read and, for me at least, a much needed break from the darkness of Vietnam and Israel.

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