So, I became a Dennis Lehane fan after reading SHUTTER ISLAND. I wanted to read the book (amazing!) before seeing the movie (have yet to see). Upon finishing SHUTTER ISLAND, I went looking for his earlier novels and began reading the Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro series. A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR is the first in that series and successfully pulled me into the dark Boston world where Kenzie and Gennaro live and work as private detectives investigating heinous crimes.
GONE, BABY, GONE is the fourth in that series and is the basis for the movie of the same name (which I haven’t seen). Lehane’s writing and character development are what keep me coming back to his stories. The plots are always interesting, and I’m always wondering whodunit? but I’m much more intrigued by how his characters act and react in the situations they encounter.
The mystery that opens GONE, BABY, GONE revolves around the disappearance of four-year-old Amanda McCready. Every available police officer in the Boston area has been pulled into the search; all resources are in play. Regardless, Amanda’s been missing for three days when Kenzie and Gennaro are brought in and neither have any hope of finding the girl alive. It’s the little girl’s aunt Beatrice who pleads for help, though, and to whom Angie can’t say no.
The search for Amanda brings new characters into Patrick and Angie’s world: a couple of detectives named Poole and Broussard, as well as a convicted drug dealer named Cheese Olamon. There are other new bad guys, some recurring good guys, and, in true Lehane fashion, it’s a little unclear through most of the book as to who’s bad and who’s good. It’s fun guessing, though.
One word of caution: Lehane is not afraid to make children the victims in his stories. As they search for Amanda, Patrick and Angie come across people who commit horrific crimes against kids, and Lehane doesn’t pull any punches as he describes these circumstances. I’m not sure why he chooses this route so often – why kids are so often the ones who suffer in his stories. If I ever have a chance to talk to him, that’s probably going to be my first question. If it weren’t for the fact that he writes so darn well, I might not be able to pick up another of his books that put children at the center of crime.
Maybe that’s his point. Maybe he wants us to think about the fact that children are violated in a multitude of ways in our country and the ones who could be rescued often aren’t. The end of GONE, BABY, GONE makes me wonder if this isn’t the impetus behind his writing. Face what’s going on and figure out what you can do to help.
Believe me, by the end of this book, you’ll be wondering a lot of things. I’d love to hear what some of them are.