Thursday, November 25, 2010

Deja Clue

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
William Morrow/HarperCollins ($26.99 324pp.)
Review by Vivian Lake
Twice reading Lehane I've had to stop and skim back over what I've read to get my bearings. Once, at the jaw-dropping twist in Shutter Island (one of the best novels I've ever read) and now reading Moonlight Mile, to make sure I haven't missed anything, because situations seem to arise out of nowehere. Lehane's latest, a sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone seems to be written by someone else entirely.

Lehane's well-documented writing chops (he's also the author of Mystic River, which was made into an Oscar-winning film by Clint Eastwood) make Moonlight Mile doubly disappointing, because by now you expect him to blow you away.

That said, this was my first time reading a Kenzie-Gennaro story, which may have made a difference but shouldn't have. Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro are two detectives now-familiar to Lehane fans, but as all avid readers know, you should be able to pick up any one of a series of detective novels and not feel you've missed anything. As far as the history of the two investigators goes, the story is solid, the problems are all in the current story, which isn't that compelling or believeable.

Ten years after the heart-breaking case depicted in Gone Baby, Gone the young Amanda, by this time a high school student, disappears again. This isn't Patrick Kenzie's problem now because he and Angie are married with a four year-old daughter. He's working for a blue-chip investigative firm which specializes in protecting the powerful and rich from responsibility and accountability (by the way, that jerk in the opening scene? I so want to know what happens to him!).
 The work turns his stomach, but the money pays the bills. And he needs the money. There's a mortgage to pay and a wife and child to support. Angie is in college finishing her degree and being a stay-at-home Mom (which is not exactly her thing).

Then Beatrice McCready appears in front of him one morning and asks him to find her one more time. Amanda has caused him enough grief and he simply can't afford to take a case that doesn't pay.  But what happened last time still haunts him, and he decides to search for her.

What follows - drug addicts, Russian gangsters, stolen artifacts, and another missing girl - comes at you in a vacuum which isn't solidly grounded. The only authentic parts of the plot were Amanda herself and her motives, Beatrice her aunt and Patrick and Angie. Fans of the Patrick and Angie novels will no doubt enjoy this update, but if you're new to Lehane, try something else. The story does want to make you want to read Gone Baby, Gone as soon as possible.

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