Book Review- Moonlight Mile
These days the world probably knows Dennis Lehane best as the author of the novels that would become the films “Mystic River”, “Gone Baby Gone”, and “Shutter Island”. I was lucky enough to discover him several years ago when I was just becoming a fan of crime fiction. Crime fiction and comic writer Greg Rucka recommended Lehane to me. So I went back and started with Lehane’s very first novel, “A Drink Before the War”, which introduced me to his team of private investigators, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. I loved it and quickly devoured all 5 novels in the series. The final book appeared to be 1999’s “Prayers for Rain”. I then followed Lehane to his later books like “Mystic River”, “Shutter Island” and his last book “The Given Day”, a magnum opus of historical fiction that I thought was the best thing he wrote. It wasn’t exactly a crime novel, so I was surprised to find out that his newest novel “Moonlight Mile” is a return to Patrick and Angie.
“Moonlight Mile” occurs in the present day so it’s been a decade since we last saw Patrick and Angie and in that time a lot has happened. The duo has married and have a cute and precocious young daughter named Gabby. They’ve ended their professional relationship though. Angie watches Gabby during the day and takes classes at night. Patrick meanwhile is still a detective. These days though the job he takes are less life threatening but more stomach churning; he’s a contractor for a large law firm and his cases usually involve protecting the bottom line of wealthy and morally bankrupt individuals. That all changes though when a face from their past arrives and gets them involved in the violent world they thought they left behind.
I try to keep my reviews spoilers free, but at this point I have to post some spoiler warnings. If you haven’t read Lehane’s “Gone Baby Gone” or seen director Ben Affleck’s wonderful adaptation of it stop reading now because “Moonlight Mile” is a direct sequel. In “Gone Baby Gone” Patrick and Angie go looking for a kidnapped child and discover that the kidnappers who took the child did so because the child’s mother was unfit to look after her. At the end of the book Patrick had to make a tough choice but decided kidnapping was still kidnapping and returned the child to her mother.
In “Moonlight Mile” Amanda is now 16 and she’s gone missing again. So Amanda’s aunt, who hired Patrick and Angie all those years ago reaches out to Patrick to go find her. His search for Amanda once again brings Patrick face to face with Amanda’s awful mom and her new identity thief boyfriend. It also embroils him in the affairs of the local branch of the Russian Mafia. Plot wise it’s a fairly exciting, and often quite funny. It does feel like Lehane has been down this territory before though.
The characters also felt a little off at first too. That could have been the point though. Patrick once again is the first person narrator and it takes awhile for him to feel like the Patrick of old. And Angie is still as fiery as ever but she only plays an active role in the middle part of the story. Lehane also brings back my favorite supporting character Bubba Rogowski and Bubba’s aged well. He’s still tough as nails, a little sociopathic, and very funny.
Lehane also employs some well developed and compelling new characters. The grown up Amanda McReady is a fascinating character. She’s incredibly cunning and determined. Yefim is an affable Russian hitman. His pleasant demeanor and his penchant for violence make his scenes fascinating.
When you finish “Moonlight Mile” you leave with a sense that Lehane came back to these characters to give them a proper goodbye, and with the ending he does just that. I finished the book satisfied with Patrick and Angie’s final case and how they’re life was going to turn out. So on its own “Moonlight Mile” is a compelling read, but when you compare it to Lehane’s other works like “The Given Day” or some of the other Kenzie-Gennaro novels, like “Darkness Take My Hand” it’s not as good