Friday, October 15, 2010

TTDS EXCLUSIVE: First Review Of The New Dennis Lehane: Moonlight Mile

As any reader of this site knows I’m a big BIG Dennis Lehane fan. And the Kenzie and Genarro series is my favorite series period. Any genre. Any era. Any medium.

So when I opened up my box and found Moonlight Mile waiting for me a full month and a half before I could reasonably respect it to… Well “Freaking the fuck out.” And “Completely lost my shit” Are such overused terms. But they fit. Picture my insides as Abagail Breslin finding out she’s going to Little Miss Sunshine and you’re half way there.

But after the shock wore off (It took awhile) I found myself gripped with a deep and wholly unexpected fear. Fear I could trace to three sources.

1) Dennis Lehane is a vicious bastard. Did I really want to give him another crack at hurting these characters after they had escaped relatively unscathed? The characters, particularly the secondary characters, Bubba, Oscar and Devin live violent lives. What guarentee was there that they would survive the interval? Much less the actual events of the novel. (The last two ended up riding into the sunset in what is probably the closest to an unqualified happy ending a character in Lehane is likely to get.)

Who knew what shape they’d be in when the book opened, let alone when it ended?

2) By now it was common knowledge that Moonlight Mile was a direct sequel to Gone Baby Gone.

Even in a series direct sequels are tricky prospects (There’s a reason everyone remembers The Last Picture Show, and few Texasville) let alone a direct sequel to one of the most perfect and ambiguous endings in crime fiction history…

3) I hated Prayers For Rain.

I don’t think I was even able to admit to myself how much I disliked that book until I actually held Moonlight in my hand and eliminated it from the realm of theoretical.

But I can admit it now.

Prayers hummed along admirably for about a hundred and fifty pages. Until for reasons I still cannot fathom, Lehane basically decided that he always wondered if Gerry Glenn, his ultimate terrifyingly empty avatar of evil in Darkness Take My Hand, would had been scarier if he knew Kung Fu and lived in the lair of a James Bond Villian.

It was stupid.

Very stupid.

I hated it as a book, and hated it even more as an ending to my favorite series. And while Lehane’s post Kenzie and Genarro books were great. I was more then a little concerned that he may have lost the thread.

I needn’t have worried.

Moonlight Mile finds Kenzie and Genarro (or is it Kenzie and Kenzie now?) and for that matter Lehane are all back in full force.

They’re older, sadder and have more to lose then ever before. But they’re still their smart assed, fearless, fiercely moral, lovable selves.

Moonlight Mile opens with Kenzie compromising his values as much as we’ve ever seen him do so. In a twenty page scene that blends comedy, tragedy, a great plot twist and a bitch of tease so masterfully that any doubts I had vanished in an instant with this masterful vignette.

Not only is it an entertaining, occasionally howlingly funny scene, but it does a truckload of character and more difficultly thematic work.

Everyone in Moonlight is still reeling from the fallout of Gone Baby Gone. A fallout that exists because Patrick refused to compromise his moral code, no matter the consequences. Now he’s compromising himself to keep out of trouble.

Everything you need to know about who Pat has become in those last ten years is summed up there.

Unfortunately the consequences of that last moral stand remain. And they’re all about to bite him in the ass. All at once.

I’ll say no more about the plot itself. I have no desire to spoil the surprises of what Kenzie And Genarro have been up to in either the novel of the interim.

I will only say that Lehane’s preternatural vividness with setting and character, and dry ruthless wit remain perfectly intact. He even finds the time for a Casey Affleck Joke.

It’s not exactly perfect, a plot involving an ancient cross smacks a bit too much of Sacred’s pulp plotting, except even more conspicuous since it’s both A) completely extraneous and B) sitting smack dab in the middle of a plot about fifty times darker then Sacred. Also there’s a plot hole that is well, pretty fucking big.

But that doesn’t matter. It’s not a perfect book, but it is a perfect ending.

I was originally going to end this review with a joke, saying that if Lehane made me wait for another eleven years for a Kenzie and Genarro Book one of us would get hurt. As I rounded out the last fifty pages, I thought, “Well maybe if he wanted to let the story end here that wouldn’t be bad.” And then came those final ten pages and all I can say is, on the off off chance that Mr. Lehane reads this; if one day you come up with a story for these guys that just seems too good to be true. One you just can’t resist…

Don’t you dare write it. Let this be their end. Let what Kenzie throws in the Charleston stay there. God knows they deserve it.


TheGirlWhoLovesHorror said...

How's the Gone Baby Gone book? I loved Mystic River and Shutter Island, but the movie for GBG didn't interest me all that much. Really slow and boring... book any better? What other Lehane do you recommend?

Bryce Wilson said...

@TGWLH: Well I liked Gone both as a book and a movie, but I can see how you might have some trouble getting into it if you weren't invested in the characters. Aside From The Given Day, and his short story collection Cornado, the Kenzie and Genarro series makes up the rest of Lehane's work.

So I'd say start at the beginning of the series with A Drink Before The War. Like I said, Darkness Take My Hand is my favorite from the series, as well as my favorite detective novel period. But you really do have to read A Drink Before The War for it to have full effect. Luckily it's a fun and fast read in it's own right.