2007: 149. A Drink Before The War

“My earliest memories involve fire.

I watched Watts, Detroit, and Atlanta burn on the evening news, I saw oceans and palm fronds smolder in napalm as Cronkite spoke of lateral disarmament and a war that had lost its reason.”

A Drink Before The War, Dennis Lehane

This is the first in Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro series, a set of novels about two Boston private eyes.  Lehane, who wrote Mystic River, captures a hard gritty corrupt side of Boston which is world’s away from the refined world of Beacon Hill that captures the public’s idea of Beantown (and, for that matter from the PBS-lovin’ loony lefty world that I knew in Cambridge), but rings absolutely true - especially if you give him credit for making a crime novel full of, you know, crime.  Although I don’t usually like hard-boiled crime novels, preferring my murders quiet, discrete and (usually) British, I was wowed by this book, and intend to finish the series.  

Two things impressed me - the spot on description of the Boston/New England area, and Lehane’s understanding of the fact that there is evil in this world and how bad it can get.  I rarely read a book that make me feel like I am home like I did with this book - I could absolutely visualize every place he described (even if I am not as familiar with Dorchester as Lehane) and it ran so authentically true that it made the book a pleasure.  On top of that (and readers - or even viewers- of Mystic River will know what I mean), Lehane writes about the evil that men and women do to each other, and the sad, dark underworld of crime in a way that both breaks your heart, and is absolutely aware of the reality of the situation.  This is a book where bad things happen and people are affected by it, where a man and woman (that would be Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro) try to make things better and succeed, but that doesn’t solve the problems.  A mystery that rises above the tropes of the P.I. novel to be about something more - as all good mysteries should.


Recommended for: People who enjoy books that touch on the heart of where our society fails most and how to deal with that, people who grew up in the Greater Boston area and want to be wowed by how accurately its described.


Date/Place Completed: 9/18/07; Atlanta

Categories:  Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017