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Book Author: Dennis Lehane

SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane: Book Review

Into the mix:  a manipulative mother, an unknown father, world-wide fame, world-wide fall, marriage, divorce, perfect second husband, suspicion of same–they all make for a thrilling ride in Dennis Lehane’s latest novel, Since We Fell.

Rachel Childs grows up desperate to know the identity of her father, a man whose presence in her life she barely remembers.  Her mother, noted author and professor Elizabeth Childs, steadfastly refuses to give her the information, taking his name to her grave.  After Elizabeth’s death, Rachel finds her mother’s journals containing notes on her father that could help in the search.  She goes to the office of Brian Delacroix, a private investigator, whom she had tried to hire several years earlier in her attempt to find her father.  At that time he had refused to take the case, saying that there was simply not enough information for him to even begin the search.  Now, with the journals giving possible clues, he agrees to look.

However, he has no luck now even with the journals to help him.  Rachel continues with her life, graduating from college and getting a job as a reporter with several small papers before landing at the Boston Globe.  But along with her professional success come more personal problems–intermittently-occurring panic attacks and agoraphobia.   Doing her best to ignore them, she leaves the Globe and becomes an internationally-known television reporter until she has a very public breakdown while reporting on the aftermath of the huge earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010.

Now Rachel is almost never seen in public.  She has become virtually housebound, partly because of her agoraphobia and partly because she is still recognized in public as the reporter who had had an emotional meltdown in front of millions of viewers.  Either way, inside is safer for her than outside.  Her career in shambles, her marriage over, Rachel’s runs into Brian at a bar where she has gone to “celebrate” her divorce. They had been in touch sporadically, once a chance meeting on a Boston street and then through an email or two.  But now she recognizes her attraction to Brian, and the two become a couple.

The first half of the book is deceptively straightforward, but the suspense quickly builds in the second half when you least expect it.  After Rachel finds out the truth of her father’s disappearance, the novel veers into new and unexpected territory.

Since We Fell has more twists and turns than a roller coaster, each one blindsiding the reader and making it compulsory to continue reading.  The plot is spellbinding, and if I tell you that I’ve described less than one-third of the novel, you can see how complicated the story is.  Rachel is a fascinating protagonist, capable and bright on one hand, struggling with terrifying insecurities and fears on the other.

Dennis Lehane has written another outstanding novel about people searching for the truth, for happiness, and all the other meaningful things in life.  We learn how crippling an unhappy childhood can be and the difficult steps Rachel tries to take to overcome her past.  Life isn’t easy for her, but, as the song says, she’s doing her best, movin’ on down the road.

You can read more about Dennis Lehane at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.



MOONLIGHT MILE by Dennis Lehane: Book Review

Dennis Lehane is one of the few contemporary mystery novelists whose books have been made into successful films.  Think Shutter Island, Mystic River, and the novel that precedes Moonlight Mile–Gone, Baby, Gone.

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro were the investigators in Gone, Baby, Gone. They found four-year-old Amanda McCready, who had been taken from her neglectful mother and was living with a loving couple who desperately wanted to keep her.  The problem was, little Amanda had been abducted, not taken legally via the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, and at the end of G,B,G the investigators were faced with a heart-wrenching decision–to keep Amanda in her new, caring home or return her to her drug-addicted mother.

Kenzie’s decision to return the girl to her mother caused the breakup of his relationship with Gennaro.  As Moonlight Mile opens, it’s twelve years later and Kenzie and Gennaro have reconciled, married, and are the parents of their own four-year-old daughter, Gabriella. They are struggling financially, as Kenzie is now the sole breadwinner while Gennaro has returned to school and is almost finished with her master’s in social work.  Then they get a call from Amanda’s aunt–the girl is missing again and the police aren’t interested in doing anything about it.

Much against Kenzie’s better judgment, he and his wife are again pressed into looking for the missing girl.  Amanda has seemingly turned her life around and is an outstanding student at a prestigious private school, but she is an aloof, hard-shelled girl whom no one seems to know.  And her mother is involved with another criminal type and not very interested in finding out what has happened to her daughter.

The case gets more involved than simply finding Amanda, as Kenzie and Gennaro apparently aren’t the only ones looking for her. Amanda’s best/only friend, Sophie, is also missing, and neither Sophie’s self-righteous father nor Amanda’s social worker, Dre Stiles, seems to have a clue as to the whereabouts of the girls.  And then a group of Russian mobsters enters the picture, determined to find Amanda, Sophie, and an antique cross of great interest to the boss of the mob.

Kenzie is still dealing with the issues from the twelve-year-old kidnapping case.  He believes he did the right thing by returning the child to her mother, although Gennaro strongly disagrees with him.  Can one do what he thinks is morally right and still be haunted by that decision? Would Amanda have been better served by leaving her with the people who would have been “better” parents, or would she have grown up and always wondered where her “real” mother was?  That decision affected not only Amanda but also the man and woman who took her in and her own aunt and uncle who placed her with them.

In Moonlight Mile Lehane explores these ideas, plus the reality of living in today’s economy. The Kenzie/Gennaro family lives from paycheck to paycheck, and Kenzie must weigh the appeal of accepting a secure job that means working for people only concerned with the bottom line or continuing to worry daily about finances and his family’s financial well-being.

As always, Dennis Lehane has crafted a fast-paced, realistic story about modern life, crimes past and present, and how the decisions of years ago impact on life today.

You can read more about Dennis Lehane at his web site.