Lehane's 'Moonlight Mile' casts a long, dark shadow

Twelve years ago, Amanda McCready was kidnapped and taken away from her drunken, neglectful mother.  PI's Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro found her, only to be driven apart by the case and its harrowing consequences.  Patrick was faced with allowing a child to be torn away from her mother and left in the custody of a family that cared for her, or following the law and returning her.  He made the correct choice, but one that was also very wrong.

Now, Amanda is missing again.  Squaring off against the Russian mob and low-life hoods involved in drugs, identity theft, and dark, cruel secrets, Patrick and Angie, now married and parents to a four-year old daughter, are forcibly dragged back into Boston's underworld to find her.

Moonlight Mile marks a welcome return to the series-PI characters that made Dennis Lehane a force to be reckoned with in crime fiction.  Absent for more than a decade (last seen in Prayers for Rain, 1999), the novel acts as a sequel to his much celebrated novel Gone, Baby, Gone.  Time has moved on for both the characters, the readers who have been with them since the beginning of A Drink Before the War, and the writer who brought them to life back in 1994.

Meeting up with Patrick and Angie after all these years is like greeting an old, distant friend.  There's an unshakable connection to the past, a bond from events shared that were good, bad, and tragic.  There's also an undeniable maturation.  As a writer, Lehane only gets stronger and the work he produces is raw, honest, and unflinching.  In Patrick, now closing on 40, the ideals of youth, those hopes and dreams for the future, have long since been tempered by cynical realities.

The independent private-eye firm of Kenzie and Gennaro has long since been shuttered.  Angie is balancing motherhood and pursuing her master's degree.  Patrick does investigative work for a big-money law firm, serving clients who have more dollars than sense.  His current case involves tailing Brandon Trescott, a trust-fund baby whose last DUI left a woman brain-dead, so his rich parents can keep him protected not only from the victim's family but, more importantly, justice.  Kenzie carries a blue-collar chip on his shoulder, and working for the rich and entitled is burning a hole in his stomach.  The promise of financial stability for him and his new family are the only reason he keeps going.

Lehane has always been at his strongest in examining the ills of society through the lens of crime fiction.  In Midnight Mile, he casts his eye towards the sense of entitlement and angry disillusionment that has swept over America.  The corporate rich pump toxins into the water supply of small-town America, and the workers ready to whistle-blow are arrested for stealing company secrets, fined millions of dollars, and left to rot in destitution.  Rich snobs like Trescott are free to wander the streets while their victims lay in hospital beds, breathing through a machine.  They can rest easy because they have money, and money buys security.  Meanwhile, houses are left empty in the wake of the mortgage crisis, their working-class owners evicted into the streets, left broken and hungry, with no golden parachute to help break their fall.

The American dream has been sold at cost, leaving behind a generation that believes they should just be handed whatever they want.  Kenzie knows he's on the wrong side of it all and sees this shift in American society where the entitlement of the rich and spoiled are corrupting everything in true trickle-down fashion.  The McCready case is his last opportunity for atonement, for the past decisions he made on behalf of Amanda, and for the selling of his soul to a law firm that embodies all of the problems with our current society.

Although Kenzie is the filter for Lehane to speak out on the problems of American culture today, the story comes first.  The page-turner plot moves swiftly and never gets bogged down in high-minded preachiness, the way John Grisham or, to a certain extent, Dean Koontz novels have tended towards in recent years.  The dialog is sharp, and although Lehane has been away from Patrick and Angie for a while, he clearly had no trouble recapturing the wit and verve that bring these characters to life.  Moonlight Mile smoothly reintroduces Patrick and Angie, and, should this be their last hurrah, sends them off into the night with ample closure, ending the series on a high note.

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Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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