Dennis Lehane – “Gone, Baby, Gone”

26 Aug

GENRE: Mystery / Private Investigator
PUBLISHED: Harper, 2007 (1998)

WHY THIS NOVEL: I liked Shutter Island and wanted to read another novel by Lehane + this was on sale for a bargain price

The back blurb:
The tough neighborhood of Dorchester is no place for the innocent or the weak. A territory defined by hard heds and even harder luck, its streets are littered with the detritus of broken families, hearts, dreams. Now, one of its youngest is missing. Private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro don’t want the case. But after pleas from the child’s aunt, they open an investigation that will ultimately risk everything – their relationship, their sanity, and even their lives – to find a little girl lost.”

I found it a bit difficult to write about this novel. First, it’s the fourth novel with PI Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro and I didn’t read the ones before; and second, I don’t read a lot of PI novels (or mystery in general) so I don’t know how it compares. What I can say is that I think it’s a good written novel, I liked the dialogue and police bits and although it’s clear that all characters are good at what they do, it’s not sure if they can find the girl. It’s a gritty novel that’s not afraid to show the dark side of things. It’s also a novel told in first person by Patrick Kenzie (worked rather well, I thought) and it’s a novel I skimmed paragraphs.

The story begins “innocently” enough – a child is missing. But soon it turns into something more, it’s a kidnapping, it’s a power struggle in a criminal organization, there are drugs involved and all kinds of other things come into play. The missing child seems just a coincidence and not really connected with what follows. All and everything seems a dead end, so in that way the story is all over the place. Patrick and Angela (and the police) don’t know what to make of it. All they know for certain is: “The missing girl remains missing or at the bottom of a quarry.” A few months later, it’s just Angela who’s still looking for something they missed. And in April the next year, another child is missing, and although it is not really related to the first missing child, this case leads Patrick on the right track and all the dead ends come together.

Gone, Baby, Gone is a story about moral ambiguity and Lehane writes about a subject that gives a sickening look into human nature: child abduction and all it’s implications. Lehane doesn’t shy away from the ugliness there and sometimes, it’s not easy to read. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s also too clear that it’s a subject that’s important to Lehane and that he has a point to make because it’s then I thought the story a bit plodding and heavy-handed. But Lehane’s point leads to a really gut-wrenching end and demands an answer to the question “What is the right thing to do?” In this story, there are two answers and for Patrick and Angela, answering the question means life is no longer what it was before they took the case. I don’t know if the way they answer is in keeping with the characterization established in the other novels but it worked for the point Lehane wanted to make.

I wondered about two things that happened: one is related to the final twist that puts Patrick and Angela on the right track but it happens right at the start of the novel. When I read it, it was a huh?-moment and niggled at me all through the story. The other one is something the one who’s behind it all does and it’s what gets him arrested in the end. That one I just thought a silly and unbelievable move. But again, great for the point Lehane wants to make.

On the whole, I thought Gone, Baby, Gone could have been written a little bit tighter. There are a few parts that seemed slightly unnecessary, for example the thing that needs to happen so that Patrick gets his clue, and the focus on getting a point across was too strong for my tastes. But there also were a few intriguing references to other cases, Kenzie’s and Gennaro’s relationship seems interesting, I liked Lehane’s way to write and that he isn’t afraid to show “grittiness,” so I’ll probably read one of the other Kenzie/Gennaro novels.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Probably not.

Grade: 4 – / 5


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