Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane — 336 pgs


Book CoverTwelve years ago private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro's lives became consumed when they went searching for 4 year old Amanda McCready. The young girl, kidnapped from the home of her negligent mother, was at the center of a controversy when she ended up being found in a very unlikely place. After Amanda was found, she was returned to the disastrous home of her mother Helene, and Patrick and Angie began to move on with their lives. Now, 12 years later, Patrick and Angie are struggling to raise a family, which is all the harder because Patrick doesn't have a stable job and Angie is going to school. Pressure is mounting from all sides, and just when it looks like Partick could land a prestigious job as an investigator for a very upscale law firm, a face from his past comes back into sight. Out of the blue he is accosted by Amanda McCready's grandmother, who tells her that the now 16 year old Amanda has vanished again. Despite Patrick's initial reluctance to handle the case, he goes for it, and what he uncovers is not only seedy and dangerous, but this time the clues implicate Amanda herself. With time running out, Patrick and Angie begin a quest to find Amanda, and in doing so, they also uncover a group of people involved in a dangerous and unusual scheme. With a plot that moves like a speeding train and some of the most unsavory and entertaining villains ever to be seen on the page, Lehane gives us the conclusion of a case started 12 years ago, and an investigator like no other, the inimitable Patrick Kenzie.

I haven't read many of Lehane's books, but what I have read has really impressed me. A few months ago I read and really loved Shutter Island and found myself thinking and rethinking about the book long after I turned the last page. I know he has a few other books that deal with Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, but I hadn't read any of them. I didn't feel lost at all in this story because I'd seen the movie version of the first book in this series, Gone Baby, Gone. One thing I thought was funny about reading this book was since I had seen Ben Affleck play Patrick Kenzie in the movie, I couldn't for the life of me not see him while I was reading Moonlight Mile. I think it actually made the book more enjoyable for me to be able to connect the actions of Patrick Kenzie with a face that I like very much!

One of the things I liked most about this book was the realistic grittiness of it. Everything seemed to have a patina of grubbiness and grime to it that gave the book an unusually urban flavor and a hard edge. Lehane gets the dialect of the streets down perfectly, as well as the description of a town that has been subsumed by the economic recession. He shows the dichotomy of those who live the high life by being lowlifes, and the desperation of those who can't make ends meet and who have to turn to unlikely and unwholesome ventures to get by. Lahane is a master of creating whole worlds and societies that mirror our own in frightening complexity and darkness, and his uncanny ability to populate his world with smugglers, druggies, mobsters, prostitutes and others of the same ilk is not only impressive, but authentic as well.

It was interesting to see the way Patrick had grown from the first part of this story to the second. No longer a heedless rebel, Patrick is now more restrained and thinks more about the things he does. His conscience troubles him because of the work he must do to feed his family, and his sense of being a vigilante out for justice seems more subdued as well. He feels the pressure of his life acutely and finds himself at a crossroads when deciding which direction his life will go in. This was a much more mature and level-headed man, a man who seemed to have so much more to protect and so much more to lose. I liked that Lehane made Patrick the kind of character you could not only become invested in, but lose yourself in, and that throughout the book, while Patrick is wrestling with the evil that surrounds him, he's also wrestling with himself.

There were a lot of genuinely surprising things about this book, from the canny and hilarious Russian mobsters, to the villains hiding in plain sight, to the lengths Amanda will go to keep her secrets hidden. While I found the book to be very enthralling and entertaining, I also found the conclusion to be a little far-fetched. It wasn't so much of a problem that it marred my enjoyment of the book, but I think Lehane went a little too far out into left field to tie all of the aspects of his story together. The journey and the characters made this a top-notch suspense novel, but in the end, I had trouble believing that things would turn out this way in the end. I think that had Lehane managed to go in another direction, the book would have been flawless, but it seems like he might have written himself into a corner that he had trouble getting out of.

Despite the conclusion, I found quite a lot to admire in this strange and twisted tale, and for the most part, the book was easy to pick up and get lost in for countless hours. I loved the complexity of the characters and the strange circumstances that brought them all together, and found that although I usually have a hard time enjoying these books, Lehane is very capable with his material and manages to sweep his story into the highest realms of suspense and action. If you have a chance to read this book, I would say go for it. It is full of twists and turns that might just surprise you.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

21 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Ha, ha - I think everyone feels that way about the ending! I know what you mean, too, about not being able to divorce an actor face from a book once you see it. After seeing Denzel in Devil with the Blue Dress, I continued to see Denzel in every other Walter Mosley mystery I read (which is not a bad thing!) :--)

TheBookGirl said...

You seem to be on a thriller-suspense run :) This book isn't really in my reading wheelhouse, but the customers who come into the bookshop who read thrillers can't seem to get enough of Lehane.
Your comment about Affleck made me smile...I wonder if you would have picked him as a good fit for the character if you had read the books first?

Steph said...

I am having the same issue of linking actors with books that you mention here... except for me it has to do with True Grit. I picked it up a few days ago, but had to put it down because I just couldn't stop the movie from playing in my head as I read. I really loved Hailee Steinfeld as Maddie Ross, but it's a bit weird to have an entire film playing in your head as you read. I guess the movie made a big impression on me!

nomadreader (Carrie) said...

I haven't read any Lehane yet, but it's wonderful to know I don't need to read them in order. I've seen a few of the film adaptations and enjoyed them. I'm always on the lookout for more literary mysteries, and I hope to read him soon!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I was very surprised that Lehane went so far over the line with this book, as all of his others have been very grounded and/or at least believable. Made me feel like he was trying to outdo somebody, a pitfall of most mystery/thrillers these days. But you are right, it was entertaining. Loved that mobster.

Jenners said...

Now I think I need to see the movie so I too can picture Ben Affleck in my head when I read this!

Jenny said...

I just started reading Shutter Island last night! I'm glad to hear that you went straight into this one after watching the movie. I was thinking I'd read the book but maybe I'll just pick up this book rather than trying to go back and catch up.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

See, I liked the first book, but was a bit disappoited with this one. Glad it worked for you Heather.

bermudaonion said...

I've heard this isn't as good as some of Lehane's other work, but I still think I'd enjoy it. You need to try Mystic River.

Beth F said...

I too can get images from movies. I read one of Lehane's books and loved it, so I really should get back to him.le

Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

I really want to try reading one of his novels, I've heard so many great things about his writing. I will have to check one out soon. Great post.

Aarti said...

There are worse things than having Ben Affleck's face in front of you for the entire experience of reading a book ;-)

I've not read Lehane before, but I like that you said he has grittiness in this book but manages to put in humor as well. I like some black humor in reading :-)

Suko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suko said...

Terrific review, Zibilee! I haven't read anything by Lehane but am now more apt to give his books a try.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've been meaning to read the one copy I have on my shelves from Lehane - The Given Day. But, I love my Boston, so I'll need to pick up Moonlight Mile soon!

Mystica said...

I like the comments made by your first commenter!!! Nice....
This book sounds very interesting - the story sounds very good.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

This review did enough to sustain my interest. I really really enjoyed it to the last sentence. I haven't heard or read the author and not on my list of authors to read; however, should I come across this novel I would pick it up based solely upon your review.

Darlene said...

This one sounds great. I've only read Mystic River and loved it. I do have Shutter Island so I should read that before this one. I have to say this one intrigues me though.

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

I do like how you phrased seeing Ben Affleck's face and it not being a bad thing! Oh to see his pretty face all the time!

I love suspense books but for some reason have never read a Lehane novel! I have this one on my shelf to read and really must put it at the top of the stack after reading your review!

Lisa said...

I hate to admit but I have yet to read any Lehane. Which is pretty shameful considering how much I like the movies made from his books!

Marie said...

I think I'm probably going to really like this once I get to it. I love a good thriller!

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