on 8 May 2000
I read my first Dennis Lehane ("A Drink Before The War") after Amazon recommended it, probably because I'd zipped through a slew of Robert Crais books and there's some similarity between the two authors. Now I've read Lehane's second title, "Darkness, Take My Hand", I really have to tip my hat towards Amazon and say thanks for the suggestion - I could easily have missed out on one of the best writers I've come across in a long, long while. "Darkness, Take My Hand" slows right down on the slick, wisecracking style (though it's still there) and picks up a head of speed on the murky Hannibal Lecter approach. A comparison is invidious though - Dennis Lehane is very much his own man and his private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are true originals. And there are some occasional but neat touches in "Darkness, Take My Hand" with casual back references to incidents in "A Drink Before The War". The feeling of continuity from these must be comfortable for what has to be a growing army of Lehane fans (though here's an important note: it's by no means necessary to read "Drink" before reading "Darkness"). Seeing as Dennis Lehane's third outing - "Sacred" - is already available, my order's in already and I'll be a happy man when it arrives.
on 7 January 2008
This is Dennis Lehane's second outstanding novel and once again we're taken on a tour of the dark side of human behavior. Sometimes I even found myself rooting for the bad guy. But there is no question about it, if you're a reader of mystery, suspense or thriller books, you simply can't ignore Lehane.
In "Darkness" Patrick and Angie come back from Lahane's hugely successful debut novel "A Drink Before the War," and they're hired to shadow a college kid because his mother fears for his safety and the surveillance job quickly turns into a life and death situation for the duo.
Bodies keep piling up. There's a link to a killer from the past, but it can't be him as he's still in jail. Patrick and Angie (who thankfully is shed of her abusive husband by now) have to make it through this case alive and it isn't going to be easy.
One thing of note about this book, Lehane lets us get a hundred pages into the book before he introduces the serial killer, quite a refreshing difference than the usual opening of a brutal murder on page one seen though the killer's eyes. Lehane skillfully brings us along with his characters and we find out what's going on as they do. Great writing. Five stars, even though there was a little to much of the icky stuff for me, I still couldn't put it down.
Review submitted by Captain Katie Osborne
Having been hired to protect the son of an eminent psychiatrist, private eye team Patrick and Angie soon become drawn in to investigating a series of gruesome crucifixion killings happening around them in Boston, Mass. The modus operandi points to a known killer, but he's been safely behind bars for the past twenty years. So how can he be involved in the present carnage? Whatever the solution, it needs to be found quickly, as the bodies pile up, and even their own lives are threatened.
The tale is told in a rather jocular first-person style, which initially seems rather at odds with the grim subject matter. The style either changes as the story progresses, or I soon adjusted to it. Whatever, a rousing read with some nail-biting moments.
on 15 July 2003
For a detective thriller, this isn't exactly light reading. Like the title warns you, it is indeed dark, and peers into a darkness within the souls of the characters.
The prologue sets us up to be prepared for some rather serious and unhappy occurances in the book...maybe not what we expect, but still we're warned that this book won't be all fun and games.
The woman who hires Kenzie fears that she and her son are being targeted and this leads him eventually into the tracking of a serial killer who may have been involved with murders that occured 20 years ago. Eventually, he finds connections even with his own family and neighborhood.
There's an undercurrent in the novel touching on how violence poisons the inner being of all involved, a theme that apparantly is recurrent in Lehane's books.
There's genuine literary quality in Lehane's writings. There's also a tragic and fatalistic aura about his stories. Kenzie is faced not only with the challenge of doing the jobs he's hired for but also with the challenge of retaining his own soul, his own feeling of rightness.
This works both as a well plotted mystery and also as a walk on the very dark side of human nature.
This was my first and long overdue foray into Lehane territory and overall it has left a highly positive impression, so much so that I have added another from his back catalogue to read very soon. It's an interesting story with good pace and a fair amount of action, one thing that niggled me slightly though was its telling from a first-person perspective (Kenzie) when in most respects he and Angie Gennaro are an equal pairing of private investigators. I think I would have preferred the more conventional third-person method, particularly as it would have enabled more freedom to wander among other characters' thoughts and actions. It's not a big deal though, and it didn't spoil the enjoyment.
There are three categories of crime fighters here: the PIs Kenzie & Gennaro along with the Boston police and the FBI. This is where I felt there was a definite weakness, and cost it a 5-star recommendation - the professional representatives of official law enforcement consistently defer to the private investigators and the FBI are made to look utterly spineless and incapable of leadership or decisiveness. Lehane's obviously an intelligent and talented storyteller and it does surprise me that he has allowed this slight absurdity into the tale. There is very little in the way of competitiveness between the three factions (as there very often is in crime fiction) and by and large everyone gets on fine, but I found it a long stretch from reality.
However it's a page-turning story with a very well structured conclusion and I enjoyed reading it from start to finish. Also, for a male author I thought the sexual scenes were described with just the right balance of plausibility, male/female balance and erotic atmosphere. Most male authors either go way over the top to the extent that it's tasteless and repellent, or they avoid it altogether. Lehane's got the skills in the bedroom - in a literal sense! - just about right. The character development was very good but I often wondered what I missed out on by not reading this novel's predecessor A Drink Before the War, because there were frequent references to the events held within it in this, the sequel. In hindsight I wish I had read that first - I now know that there's an omnibus edition of both novels in one book - A Drink Before the War/Darkness, Take My Hand
Anyway, this may have been first published in 1997 but it's just as worthy of purchase as any new release in 2009. If you haven't tried Lehane yet, and you have a liking for such US crime writing peers as Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Robert Crais, Jeffery Deaver, Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, P J Tracy and perhaps most accurately David Levien, then it's highly probable that you will want to add the Dennis Lehane portfolio to your personal library. That's what I will be doing, at any rate.
on 3 May 2013
'Darkness' is a Lehane dress reheasal for the superior Mystic River, using his Kenzie and Gennaro detective vehicle and Silence of the Lambs as an inspiration. This is an inferior book to Mystic River. The writing is florid, the plot crude - it is not even a good example of his earlier, genre novels. It is no Gone Baby Gone, for example. There is too much crazy killer/Hannibal Lector in this one - maybe Lehane thought he could cash in?
Yet Lehane is good enough to keep you in the game througout. I knew the killer early, as the plot closely follows what Dashiell Hammet laid out in his classic, The Dain Curse - you meet the killer early and he is nice. So that bit was easy to spot, despite all his best efforts. This did not put too much of a damper on enjoying what followed, up to a point. The plot still shimmied its dance, the killings were plenty gruesome and shocking, and the tone, as hard boiled as a ten minute egg.
There was the usual 'all men are bastards' and 'all women are saints' stuff that mars a lot of Lehane - he is a victim of the misandric zeitgeist, full of Cathoic guilt for man's sins (women are too nice to sin). One of the major/minor characters had to die, and this time, of course, it was a man who was once married to Angie (and shockingly, Patrick's former best friend). A wife beater and a drunk, the victim. Kenzie's dad gets it in the neck - a fireman who beats his son and actually burns a man alive withouth grimacing. The climax is pretty satisfying, considering what preceded it, as Kenzie does what Kenzie does best - stand up to evil and vanquish it (again!)
I am glad Lehane matured and has now written a number of truly excellent noir thrillers and even better, more serious novels. This is a mere dress rehearsal for the writer he would become.
on 18 May 2001
O.K - warning before we go any further - if you are unable to willingly suspend your disbelief for 300 and odd pages, then this book, or the other Kenzie and Gennaro novels, are probably not for you. True, if you are looking for the last word in drab realism, you will be disappointed, and if you are seeking to studious dissect out holes in plot and motivation then you will be able to nit-pick for a considerable time.
Those however looking for an engaging, humourous and entertaining thriller will have to walk a long mile before they find a better read.
Our two heros Kenzie and Gennaro, and even their psychotic sidekick Bubba, manage to remain people we want to know more of, to spend time with, and to root for - true, they seem rather more attractive and morally sound than one might have a right to expect at times, and their back stories occasionally smack of being put in place to add background colour, but, (and in this I obviously disagree with some other readers), I found the evolving relationship between the two partners a central and involving theme of the book, rather than the more usual cheap attempt to inject much needed sexual tension into a dieing narrative.
Although the plot centres around the chase for a serial killer of children, and occasionally touches on areas previously made their own by authors such as Thomas Harris, it unfolds more organically than most, and slowly accelerates to a furious, and genuinely moving climax.
This is not Shakespeare, nor is it even the perfect example of the rollercoaster thriller it sets out to be - the familiarity of certain plot lines prevents that. For me, other novels in the series come closer, although I suspect that may be personnal taste.
But if the adrenaline rush of a Patterson or a Harris is what you crave, I have to say I found this better than either, with a degree of genuine emotional engagement with the central characters missing from the hollow hearts of some of its "whizz-bang" competitors.
Heartedly recommended, and clear about another foot of shelf space - you'll want the others in the series too.
on 10 February 2008
First off; if you are going to read the Kenzie and Genarro series, of which this is the second, read them in order. Some are better than others, all are at the least, very good while a couple of them (including this one) are absolutely superb. This is the best Lehane book (if you want to argue Gone, Baby Gone is better I won't fight you too hard), it is a thrilling ride full of dense plot, suspense, tremendous finale and likeable characters. I hear you say Bubba is a caricature, I say get a life and enjoy him for what he is, an over the top, funny, memorable personality. Kenzie and Genarro are likeable with good personalities and excellent chemistry. If you like Michael Connelly, Robert Crais or John Sandford you will love these book(s). What are you waiting for---get reading!
The Kenzie and Gennaro characters are the focus of a serial killer in this installment of their series - as usual the writing is chillingly descriptive and cinematically visual.
One of Lehane's strong points is his plotting - if you like a thriller/mystery novel with a bit of horrific realism thrown in, if you like to be kept guessing right until the end, then Dennis is your man. He's never reluctant to get rid of regular characters, so you can't rely on them staying the distance just because they've survived previous tales.
What could have been a routine adventure under the pen of another writer becomes a grippingly intense battle of wits which keeps you right on the edge of your seat, turning the pages until the story unfolds. He always surprises me, which is worth it's weight in gold for a seasoned and slightly jaded reader like myself.
Read them in order if you can. Alternately, his best book is Shutter Island in my opinion (not one of this series). Whatever you choose, you'll soon get carried along by the sheer class his writing displays. He's a one-off.
on 22 October 2010
This is my third book in the Kenzie/Gennaro series. Didnt read them in order but i strongly suggest that you do, seeing that from time to time there are some references to the first novel of the series A Drink Before The War.
My personal opinion is that this is the best one i have read so far, if you dont take into consideration the stand alone novel Mystic River, which is simply in a class of its own. While the book reviewed here is no masterpiece, it certainly is dark and entertaining at the same time. I think it s the first time that Lehane actually ventured into serial killer territory. While this is a path taken by hundreds before and after, he manages to pass the test with flying colours as there is no overdose of forensic details and technicalities a la Patricia Cornwell. Instead the pages turn rapidly with never a boring moment. A word of advice; there are some violent and really gruesome scenes which surprised me coming from this author. And i m happy to say that i didnt guess at all the identity of the killer, which is always a sign of a good thriller. On the other hand Kenzie and Gennaro are very likeable characters, realistic and i found their relationship deeply moving. So much so that it s just worthit to go through this series just to see how their lives got along.
Regarding the core of the story, our two characters are hired in their capacity as private investigators, to protect the son of a prominent psychiatrist. At first nothing seems to happen until a string of horrible murders, past and present strike close to home and they realise that a dormant monster has awoken.
Although i gave it 5 stars without a second s hesitation there are some things that still itch me. First of all this book (or the whole series) would be much better off without the Bubba character. Then as a previous reviewer pointed out, i found the relationship between the FBI and two simple private investigators a bit stretching it. And most of all, the book ended in my opinion with more questions than it gives answers. But probably that s just me who likes everything neatly wrapped up, and we know that life is not like that. Looking forward to the next in the series!