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Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: 'Moonlight Mile'

MOONLIGHT MILE
By Dennis Lehane
Crime Fiction
October 2010
William Morrow
ISBN: 978-0-06-183692-3

Patrick and Angie are back. Still driven, still trying to do the right thing, but with new commitments. And when the past comes calling, the future is in jeopardy.

Patrick is trying hard to toe the line. If he can keep his disdain for the unprincipled rich at bay, he just might get a permanent job with the type of investigative agency that destroys whistleblowers and protects criminals, if their parents are rather wealthy. He hates it, but his wife and baby girl deserve the basics -- a home, relying on a steady paycheck, health insurance. (The undercurrent of having to betray moral principles to get these basics is so well drawn by Lehane that he doesn't have to draw attention to Patrick's dilemma; it's there as an aspect of how the middle class and below try to survive these days.)

One dreary evening, Patrick is confronted by the aunt of Amanda McCready, the little girl who vanished in Lehane's brilliant Gone, Baby, Gone. The price of doing the right thing after they found Amanda and returned her was devastating years ago and preys on them still. Whether they did the right thing remains a point of sorrow and argument between them.

Now Amanda, a bright 16-year-old on track for Harvard, is missing again. Should Patrick look for her to redeem himself? Should Angie give up her education when she's so close to a degree to help? What do they owe their daughter in terms of taking care of her and following their conscience?

Of course they're going to look for Amanda. At least one other teen is missing, Amanda's mother and her new boyfriend are into shady dealings thinking they'll get rich and, as is inevitable these days, Slavic mobsters who know about Patrick and Angie's child are involved.

Lehane's masterful craft in detailing the ins and outs of the investigation is shown in so many ways, but especially in the portraits of the people they meet while on Amanda's trail. Even if they appear for only a scene or two, whether they are sympathetic or not, they are all fully realized characters that could exist before and after their roles in this drama. The plot itself is intriguing without padding, tricky without being deceitful.

In addition, Lehane adds social commentary through Patrick as he takes full note of what he sees, what it means to the case, what it means to the people involved in the case and what it means to his family. Lehane lets loose with both barrels but keeps the speeches from becoming polemic. This is what it looks like to have a well-drawn character with a sturdy point of view that affects his actions, that directs how he lives. And it's glorious to read something so sure and strong.

Whether it's part of his series, historical, a short story or standalone, Lehane has proven himself to be one of the great voices currently writing fiction. Add Moonlight Mile to the list of Stories that Deserve to be Told.
 
© 2010 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this one, too, and have to confess that it was the first book by Dennis Lehane that I've read ... I knew his stories from the movie adaptations.

    Anyone with a familiarity of Boston and its suburbs will enjoy those references, too.

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  2. Yes, the book works well as an introduction to the characters or as continuation of the series.

    Lehane is so good writing about Boston that it was a treat to see how well he handled a southern community in his story in Best American Noir of the Century.

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