Monday, November 08, 2010

Moonlight Mile

I discovered Dennis Lehane, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro sometime in 1995, shortly after A Drink before the War was released in paperback. I had been a fan of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series for a while and the prospect of reading about another Boston detective was too tempting to resist. When I picked up that first Kenzie-Gennaro novel, I had no idea who Dennis Lehane was or that he was planning to write a series based on the pair.As it turned out, Lehane would write five Kenzie-Gennaro books in about six years before suddenly (in this fan’s eyes) abandoning the series in 1999. I remember thinking what a big mistake Lehane was making – which shows what I know, because Lehane then produced his two most successful books in relative short order: Mystic River in 2001 and Shutter Island in 2003. Both books went on to become big time movies. That 2008’s The Given Day did not have nearly the same impact, might have had a little to do with Lehane’s decision to return to the Kenzie-Gennaro series but, whatever the reason, longtime fans of the series are just happy to have a new entry after an eleven-year drought.

Lehane has allowed Patrick and Angie to age in real time, and Moonlight Mile sees them forced to deal with some of the same characters involved in the traumatic case that almost permanently ended their relationship a decade earlier. Back then, four-year-old Amanda McCready had gone missing and Patrick was hired to find her. Patrick’s decision to return Amanda to her dangerously neglectful mother rather than to leave her with the couple that had her illegally, but so plainly loved her, was one that Angie could not understand – or easily get over.

Amanda, now 16, is missing again and her aunt has asked Patrick’s help in finding her for a second time. Patrick and Angie, now married and with a four-year-old daughter of their own, soon find themselves reliving some of the same emotional trauma they suffered through the first time they searched for Amanda. It was not easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys when Amanda went missing the first time, and Patrick and Angie will soon find that it will be no easier this second time around.

The good news is that Amanda McCready has grown into an exceptionally bright young lady who will be able to get a free ride from just about any Ivy League college she chooses. The bad news is that she has somehow become so involved with Russian mobsters that she has gone into hiding. Soon, what Patrick and Angie learn about Amanda’s predicament will have them struggling with the same kind of right vs. wrong decisions that split them up twelve years earlier.

Moonlight Mile is quite an adventure (and a fun reunion with two old friends) but it does not have quite the seriousness or grit of earlier books in the series. Amanda’s character, particularly toward the end of the book when she starts calling the shots, does not ring quite true. Despite the upbringing she suffered, it is hard to believe that a 16-year-old would be so world-wise or speak to Patrick in the authoritative, but sarcastic, tone she uses on him. Too, the Russian mobsters in the storyline are the usual invincible lot for which U.S. law enforcement officers seem never to have an answer. They are interesting, but they serve to remind the reader how their “type” has become little more than a fictional cliché.

I particularly enjoyed the way Lehane flavored the novel with occasional flashes of observational, sarcastic humor, such as this exchange between Patrick and a newspaper buddy of his:

“…it’s directly connected to Amanda McCready. She went missing again.” (Patrick)

“…And her aunt says no one cares. Not the cops, not you guys.” (Patrick)

“Hard to believe. Twenty-four hour news cycle and all? These days we can make a story out of anything.” (Reporter)

“Explains Paris Hilton.” (Patrick)

“Nothing explains that.” (Reporter)

Or this bit from Patrick after his interview with several 16-year-old girls at Amanda’s school:

"After my daughter was born, I’d considered buying a shotgun to ward off potential suitors fourteen or so years up the road. Now, as I listened to these girls babble and imagined Gabby one day talking with the same banality and ignorance of the English language, I thought of buying the same shotgun to blow my own …head off.”

Moonlight Mile did not turn out to be my favorite Kenzie-Gennaro novel, but I am thankful that Dennis Lehane wrote it – and, more importantly, I am hoping for others to follow. Patrick and Angie are still fun to be around, so let’s do it again. (And let’s hope for more “Bubba” next time around.)

Rated at: 4.0


  1. I would like to think I'm world-wise and sarcastic, but it turns out I'm just annoying.

  2. I discovered Lehane many years ago and have read all of his works with the Patrick and Angie series being my least favorite but I quite enjoyed Moonlight Mile and wonder what Lehane will have Patrick doing in the next book.

  3. Gaston, I wonder the same thing about Patrick. I can't imagine that he will settle down forever in the job he's headed to at the end of Moonlight Mile. I wonder even more if there will actually be another book in the series or if this is the official goodbye to it.

  4. Even though the Patrick and Angie novels are my second favs of Lehanes, I hope he doesn't drop them and doubt that he will. Just a little mental challenge there.

  5. I hope you're right about the continuation of the series. IMO, it's like having money in the bank for him...why waste it by letting it sit there unused?

  6. I thought it was funny that he thought a master's degree in sociology for Angie would bring some money into the family.

    And the thing with his friend's trucking company - that it was the receivables clerk who was embezzling? She was accounts payable, wasn't she?

    I'm just wondering if Dennis has ever worked in the for-profit environment. :)

  7. Interesting observations...gotta admit those went right over my head. :-)