Book Review: A Drink Before The War

Book Review: A Drink Before The War

Once in a while, an author just understands me. Dennis Lehane is one of those authors, and this is his first novel. I discovered Dennis Lehane after reading the brilliant Mystic River, which I could've easily written a glowing review for. Instead, I opted to review the first of his Kenzie and Gennaro private investigator novels. The reason is that this was the book that made me stand up and take notice of how good he was. Besides, Mystic River doesn't need another glowing review.A private investigator series could be very cliched, very formulaic, and very dull. Heightened drama doesn't exist if you know the heroes will be around twenty novels later. In this series, there are six to date. This couldn't be further from the truth, as there is plenty to be excited about in each of these novels. Without any more gushing, here is my review of A Drink Before the War.

The Story

Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro are private investigators in Dorchester, a working-class neighborhood of Boston. They are given a task by local politicians to locate a cleaning lady Jenna Angeline who may have taken some very important documents. Kenzie and Gennaro discover that their manhunt is just the beginning. Finding Jenna will create a blowup between two major gangs, it will uncover decade-long secrets, and it will put our heroes in a great amount of danger. The story confronts racial tension, class warfare, corruption, abuse, and several other topics that remain relevant regardless of the time frame. It's good to know the book was written in 1994, but it very well could've been written this week.

The Verdict

This is a great first installment to the Kenzie and Gennaro series. We get to learn about their relationship, and we identify with our characters through the mess they are in. Lehane nails the Boston literary voice. He is darkly funny, intense, and always keeps the reader on edge. The cast of characters feel real, and the various crime fiction cliches are kept to a minimum. Let's face it; this is genre fiction. However, we aren't trapped in stereotypical tropes that will take readers out of the story.

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