With a week’s vacation to burn up, and after a quick trip to The Tattered Book, I decided to break in a new author that had been recommended to me on many fronts. And after reading Dennis Lehane’s A Drink Before the War — his first Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro adventure — the only question left to answer was — What in the hell took me so long to try this guy?
Set in the racially turbulent Burroughs of Boston, detective Kenzie and his partner, Gennaro — both street-wise and wise-asses, and both burdened by family skeletons that are still leaving bruises and scars — are hired by the local political machine to track down and return some compromising documents allegedly pilfered by a maid, who has since fallen off the face of the earth. Of course, as it usually is in these kinds of things, this missing persons job winds up being not quite that simple as the partners are soon embroiled in a bitter gang-war, with both sides wanting them dead and those documents kept out of the others’ hands. Leaving our protagonists, who are only trying to do the right thing with what they’ve found, on the run, dodging bullets, and playing all three sides against the other to save their own skins.
Yeah, after only one book the team of Kenzie and Gennaro have easily rocketed into my top ten of favorite literary characters. They aren’t perfect and are intriguingly flawed, with Kenzie acerbically trying to come to grips with the ghost of his abusive father, the “Hero,” and Gennerao’s tragic refusal to leave her abusive husband, the “Asshole,” which only adds another layer of tension between the two, whom we, as a reader, want to see get together but know it would never work. And with this couple of hard-boiled throwbacks, Lehane’s dialogue is witty and cynical and absolutely crackles on the page. So, take my advice and don’t wait as long as I did and check out this book as soon as possible.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go finish Darkness take My Hand so I can read Sacred; and then Gone Baby Gone, and then …