Book report #87: Dennis Lehane, A Drink Before the War
Lehane has gotten better since this, his first novel. (Mystic River is, in my estimation, very nearly a Great Book.) I have the feeling throughout this that he's finding his feet, relying on genre convention a bit overmuch, and his prose is a bit rocky in places--he's leaning hard on the cliches of noir, and sometimes the resultant strain to the narrative voice makes me wince. And man, his protagonist is the luckiest Mutherfucker ever to ride the T.
The book needs confidence, and that shows.
Also, man, that's a lot of gunfights for one week in Boston. It gets a little Hollywood after a while. However, I forgive him for having the courage to go after some rather unsavory plot developments, no holds barred, and not flinch from the nastier things his protagonists do. Nor is there an Obligatory Love Interest Plot that plays out in a predictable fashion.
However, as first novels go, it's a damned fine effort, and the thriller plot works! No handwaving, even, and no long Dashiell Hammett-esque exposition-at-gunpoint scenes--it actually all more or less comes together. The characters are fun, the plot runs like an engine, and you know it's set in Boston because it mentions an Au Bon Pain. (All books set in Boston must mention an Au Bon Pain. It's a Law.) Also, the books asks some hard questions and keeps pushing at them until it gets past all the easy facile answers and into the real hard ground of fuck man, I don't know. Which is a trait he's kept through Mystic River, and I salute him.
Recommended, though it's not a patch on his later work.