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4.2 out of 5 stars58
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 14 September 2001
This is Lehane's first book, and what a devastatingly brilliant book it is too. It introduces us to Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro and their private investigation business in their hometown of Boston. The Boston we get to see, though, is the lower working class and slum areas of town. This is a hardboiled thriller to the core. Patrick Kenzie is haunted by memories of his abusive father; Angie Gennaro is married to an abusive husband. Together they have a fantastic chemistry in which they can virtually read each other's minds.
Kenzie and Gennaro are hired by a local Senator to find a black cleaning woman who was in his employ until she disappeared with some important documents. The case is simple, find the woman and return the documents. The woman is found, but from this point on, things start to go wrong, and it's clear that Kenzie and Gennaro haven't been told the whole story. They soon find themselves caught up in a gangland war where survival is looking less and less likely.
The dialogue is witty and sharp, the story is very well paced and the characters are very believable and all too real-life. I have read all the other Kenzie-Gennaro books before this one (shame on me for reading this out of order) and rate it very highly in comparison. In actual fact, it would have been of great benefit if I had have read this book first as it puts into perspective events that occur in the later books.
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on 16 May 2009
This was Lehane's first novel and, as the book introduces his private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, it also became the start of a series. It therefore almost makes sense to start reading Lehane here because readers who come at this book backwards, having first read Mystic River, will probably be slightly disappointed because Mystic River is a much more developed and substantial read.

However, whilst 'A Drink Before The War' is undoubtedly the work of a writer flexing his muscles for bigger and better things to come, it is also worth reading on its own terms because it is a pacey and entertaining thriller with a strong sense of place and character and, although it won't fulfil, it certainly won't disappoint.

In short, this is a very tasty snack rather than a sustaining meal. An undemanding but excellent page turner. Great for a long lazy day and recommended on that basis.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 September 2003
To find a great mystery writer is akin to a great bottle of wine for me. Dennis Lehane is one of the best mystery writers around. His stories center around Boston and South Boston is the neighborhood. In "A Drink Before the War" we meet Patrick Kenzie and Anglea Gennaro- a private detective team. Both are locked into their own mysteries- that of abvuse- Patick abuse from his father, a powerful man in his own right. And Angela abuse from her husband. The hint of a relationship is there, but it is subtle and nothing is out in the open.
This mystery opens with a cleaning woman who has stolen papers from an important Boston politico. She asks for assistance and as the storyline deepens- race relations between black and white come to the fore. The streets of Boston are explored and explained. There is violence in this mystery and some of it is not pleasant but somehow opens the mystery to deeper understanding. The writing is superb. This is the beginning of a series exploring Patrick and Angela's relationship and their business partnership. Come along on the journey of Dennis Lehane into the streets and neighborhood of Boston. One of the best writers available- collect all of his books. You will thank me. prisrob
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on 28 April 2000
Dennis Lehane's first book, "A Drink Before The War" is a really startling debut into thriller crime fiction. It's not that surprising if a first book is ever so slightly hesitant, perhaps because an author is feeling his way. That doesn't happen in "A Drink Before The War" - it's completely into its stride from just about the first page. I was expecting (and, to be honest, hoping) for the laid-back humour of Robert Crais and, to be sure, it was there but mostly subdued. No matter though; the story got up to speed within a page or two and from then on it didn't let up. Even the occasional and brief paragraph of philosophy, as Lehane stares moodily at American life, doesn't slow things up. If I have a mild complaint at all, it's founded on the relentlessly accurate (I think) description of Boston's highways and byways as private investigators Kenzie and Gennaro move around. For anyone living in Boston, or even slightly familiar with the city, the realism must be rewarding. Sadly, I've never been there but I certainly felt I had after I'd finished reading. Which means, I suppose, that the descriptions did just what they were supposed to do - pull me into the story. "A Drink Before The War" is a great read and well worth it.
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on 25 August 2012
Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro are Boston private investigators operating out of an office in a church belfry in Dorchester. They get hired to undertake a seemingly easy case from three Massachusetts politicians: find a former cleaning woman who has stolen some sensitive documents from them. Of course the case turns out to be considerably less straightforward and vastly more dangerous than it initially appears.

This is the first of the celebrated Kenzie/Gennaro series and its voice, and that of Patrick, the narrator, is noticeably younger, certainly more wise-ass, that later novels of this series and later of Lehane's other novels. In spite of this the novel offers a serious consideration of racial tensions in the Boston of the early 1990s in the guise of a very satisfying crime thriller. Typical of Lehane's work it is run through with a strong sense of place and a Greene Catholic sensibility contemplating right, wrong and trying to discern the lesser of the evils in the midst of the routinised violence of poverty and criminal activity.
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on 25 December 2009
After reading Mystic River, which in my opinion is one of the best books i ve read in my life, and probably the best one Lehane will ever write, i decided to look through this author s works and start reading them from the beginning. Whilst not even remotely deep and brilliant as Mystic River, i was pleased to see that this author here is not just a one success novel guy as so often seems to be the case with many writers who after a single bestseller fade into obscurity.
The novel reviewed here is Lehane 's debut novel some years back, and the first to his Kenzie/Gennaro series. Absolutely loved these two characters, partners in a duo private investigation agency, Patrick Kenzie and the beautiful Angela Gennaro. Both carry their own heavy baggage with them, Kenzie the victim of a cruel, abusive father in his childhood and Gennaro whilst being tough and certainly no helpless damsel in distress, the victim of a violent husband. Really liked the way the book was written, in the first person (Kenzie being the narrator)with a wise crack thrown in every page for good measure, and a sarcastic sense of humour that was perfectly accomplished. Against other reviewers here, did not like very much the Bubba guy. Not him pesonally, cause i definetly liked the fact that though being a psychotic killer could be made to blush like a little boy by the beautiful Angela. But i found him a bit too convenient sometimes, and unrealistic.
In short the plot revolves around the stolen documents from the state house by a black cleaning woman. The local senator hires the services of Kenzie and Gennaro to find the missing woman and bring back the stolen documents. Simple enough, yes? Wrong, cause by finding the woman our two characters soon discover that there is more invoved than they bargained for, and staying alive not so simple anymore! Cant wait to read more from this series, also to discover how the relationship between these two here evolves.
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on 27 January 2012
I couldn't help but feel a wee bit old when reading this book. Set in 1993, the cars had cassette players and there were no mobile phones or internet to be seen. I remember those times, young though I may have been.

Anyhow, the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this. It was nice to have a novel set in a city I've never really read about before (Boston) rather than having yet another set in NYC. It's a fast paced thriller that didn't really let up in terms of action and plot. There was very little padding to the plot, we got the facts of the case and the storyline moved right along. I like a book that does that. The plot was fairly simple, I admit, and I did figure out what was going on but I still had fun reading it.

The author didn't neglect the back stories of the characters though, however fast paced and simple the plot was. We learned about Kenzie and Gennaro's abusive relationships (father and husband respectively), about their childhoods and about their friendship. On the other hand, we don't learn so much that on reading the next in the series, we feel like we know everything.

While not the best crime thriller I have ever read, I got a few hours of enjoyable reading from this, all I ever hope for, and it was certainly worth my time. I'm looking forward to reading more Lehane and seeing how his writing style and characters develop over the course of this series.
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on 29 August 2003
This is the third Lehane novel I have read (and yes, I know it should have been the first!). It is a well paced, witty and sharp and I couldn't put it down. Patrick Kenzie is a PI who always seems to have a "wise ass" comment and together with his partner and long time friend Angie Gennaro are hired to solve various crimes. I have read PI novels before, but most of the main characters are male and, while there is nothing wrong with this, you have to admire Lehane who has developed a gutsy female PI who can kick ass with the best of them. Actually, there are times in the book when her balls are bigger than Kenzie's! Superior stuff, an exceptionally good PI novel. Oh, and by the way - BUBBA ROCKS!!!
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on 7 July 2003
There indeed is some Robert B. Parker style here, but Lehane doesn't stop there, and is not limited by that style, but goes beyond it into deeper looks into tortured souls. Certainly, the main character, Kenzie, had a more miserable childhood than did Spenser. And his partner, Gennaro, is going through her particular version of Hell which is one Susan Silverman didn't have to put up with.
Like Spenser, Kenzie has his hangups, but his far more sordid childhood history influences his hangups, and he has no psychologist girl friend to be his shrink, so he has to face them by himself. And this gives the novel a lot of its weight.
There should also be something said about Lehane's perspective on racial relations.
There are a number of black characters in the book, very unlike from each other. There are also a number of characters who use derogatory terms against blacks, and Lehane characterizes these people by the words they use in many cases. A reader who gives the book a quick read might misunderstand the author's perspective. But Lehane does deliver a message that says people are people, individual people. The prejudices of these people say something about the individual bearing such prejudices.
Yet, Lehane also suggests, especially in one of the climactic scenes, that we are all contaminated by the aura of prejudice. In one telling sequence, the main character, Kenzie, succumbs to the poison of prejudice in his thinking. Fortunately, he shakes off the effects of this poison.
So what I am saying to those who read this book, especially Afro-Americans, is to not read the book too quickly, and to realize that although some of the author's characters use ugly language, the author is definitely not in love with all of his characters and shows that in his narration. In fact, he is saying something about those particular characters if you read carefully enough to hear what he says.
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on 25 August 2011
This is the one to read FIRST. I have now read a number of his books and to honest it is crucial to read them in order. He continually mentions his earlier books and the plots so to read them out of order ruins everything.
Otherwise a really great author with a new approach to crime writing.
Buy and read and you will not be disappointed!
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