Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

Almost every year from 1994 to 1999, Dennis Lehane published one of his novels featuring private investigator duo Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. He took just over a decade off from his most famous characters after that, opting instead to write stand-alone novels like Mystic River, Shutter Island, and The Given Day. Lehane attributes the 11-year gap to a result of Patrick “not talking to [him].” O… k… Well, I read all the Kenzie Gennaro novels (A Drink Before the War, Darkness Take My Hand, Sacred, Gone Baby Gone, and Prayers for Rain) in 2010 so I didn’t have to wait a decade but I did wait for paperback and only picked it up this year. The book is a sequel to Gone Baby Gone (well, okay, technically it’s a sequel to all of the previous novels). [GONE BABY GONE SPOILERS ABOUND FROM THIS POINT ON] In the heartbreaking conclusion to Gone Baby Gone, Patrick opts to “rescue” four-year-old Amanda McCready from her benevolent kidnappers and return her to the care of her awful junkie mother, Helene. He did the right thing. You can’t just kidnap a kid and get away with it. But he did the wrong thing. Amanda’s life will surely be worse with Helene than it would have been with said kidnappers. At the end of the book, Angie leaves Patrick over his decision (though they get back together in Prayers for Rain).

In the time between the books Patrick and Angie have gotten married and have a daughter of their own, Gabriella. Angie is a stay-at-home mom and a night school student while Patrick is trying to get a job with a firm that helps rich people deal with their problems. It’s not really to Patrick’s liking but it’s stable employment and a source of health insurance for his family. Then one day Beatrice McCready, Amanda’s aunt, shows up with the news that the now-sixteen-year-old Amanda is missing… again. Unsurprisingly, Helene remain a shitty parent in the twelve years since she got a second chance. More surprising, Amanda seems to have turned out for the most part okay. She’s wicked smart (as they would say in Boston) and seems to be on the fast track to a better life that puts her far away from Helen and the hellish life that every Boston citizen in Lehane’s novels seems to have. But she’s missing. Solving this case could be Patrick’s shot at redemption.

Of course Lehane’s books tend not to deal with redemption in such easy ways. Hell, look at Gone Baby Gone. At the end of that book there was no way to do the right thing. So why would this be simpler? It was good to read Patrick’s voice again. The characters are what makes this series work, though Angie gets somewhat short-changed in this one. Also Bubba spends a good chunk of the book not around, though he definitely gets some good Bubba moments. Other familiar characters are missing, but after so much time it’s expected that things would be different. I like the moral ambiguity of Lehane’s world. It’s compelling detective fiction and I hope that there’s more coming… preferably in less than a decade…

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