In the opening book of Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro series, Patrick and Angie are tasked by a state senator to find some missing documents that were most likely taken by a recently disappeared cleaning woman. What they find could touch off not only a political scandal, but a race war in the streets of Boston.
Lehane's debut has all the hallmarks of the classic PI novel: wisecracking detective, violence, and plot twists galore. Like all good PI stories, there is the perceived crime and the actual crime. The perceived crime is the missing documents and the actual crime is what the recovery of those documents will cover up.
All the characters, no matter how minor, are very well rendered. Patrick Kenzie on the surface seems to be a typical wisecracking detective, but you get the sense that the jokes are his way of covering up the pain, rather than proving how much of a tough guy he is. Kenzie has a strong support network around him - from gun dealers to low-level government clerks to reporters. Some may feel it's a cop-out to have the timely information just a phone call away, but any good detective (and anyone who grew up in Boston like Kenzie did) would most likely have a network of friends and informants to help him out. And you get the sense that these people have lives going on outside the world of the book.
I greatly enjoyed A Drink Before the War, and look forward to reading more books by Lehane.