Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sacred by, Dennis Lehane

A piece of advice:  if you ever follow someone in my neighborhood, don't wear pink.

A beautiful, grief-stricken woman has vanished without a trace.  So has the detective hired to find her.  The woman's father, a dying billionaire, hires Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro to find his daughter.  What first appears to be a missing persons case soon turns out to be much more complex and twisted than either Patrick or Angie had ever imagined.

Sacred is the third book in Dennis Lehane's Kenzie & Gennaro private detective series. (My reviews for the first two are here and here).  What I've said about Lehane's other books still applies.  The world of Kenzie & Gennaro is rich with fully realized characters who leap off the page.  The protagonists themselves are deep, interesting people with whom you'd like to share a beer.  And Lehane's lyrical prose just keeps getting more vivid and more powerful.  I don't think I could stop myself if I wanted to print some quotable lines, there are just that many.

One of the most talked about aspects of Lehane's work is how deftly he weaves social commentary into what could be run of the mill genre stories.  Though I'm not sure what the theme of this book would be (except perhaps as a diatribe against the corrupting power of wealth).  The plot is littered with twists and reversals and untrustworthy people.  Nobody, except perhaps Patrick's mentor Jay, tells our heroes the truth.  In this way, it's a throwback to the earlier novels of Raymond Chandler or Ross Macdonald.

The real selling point of Sacred is the relationship between Patrick and Angie.  They had a fling when they were 16, but it didn't go anywhere.  In A Drink Before the War, they maintained a platonic, if flirty, relationship.  After the horrific events in Darkness, Take My Hand, they start to come together, but there is a wall between them because of Angie's grief over her lost husband.  When they finally accept their feelings for each other, the sparks fly off the page.  Fans of the novels probably feel the same sense of relief as Patrick does when he recognizes that he's always loved Angie.

I'll indulge myself with quoting a couple paragraphs here.  This scene takes place in the latter third of the book, after our heroes had been beaten, deceived, and had their expectations turned upside down:
[Angie] fell asleep curled on my chest as my own eyelids fluttered.  And I found myself wondering, just before I lost consciousness, how I could have thought - even for a second - that Desiree was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen.
I looked down at Angie sleeping naked on my chest, at the scratches and swollen flesh on her face, and I knew that only now, at this exact moment and for the first time in my life, did I understand anything about beauty.
I can't recommend the Kenzie & Gennaro series highly enough.

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