Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gone, Baby, Gone by, Dennis Lehane

Four-year-old Amanda McCready has gone missing from her Dorchester home. Her aunt, Beatrice, has called every law enforcement agency in town, hung flyers, and organized neighbors in a city-wide manhunt for little Amanda. At the end of her rope, she hires private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro to provide extra assistance.

Gone, Baby, Gone, the fourth book in Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie/Gennaro series, is considered one of his best, and it’s hard to disagree. The story is multi-layered, the characters are vivid, and the questions are big.

Four books in, Kenzie and Gennaro are starting to get tired. Not in the sense of being played out (hell, no!), but in the sense that all the stuff they’ve seen and done is starting to pile up. They are reluctant to take the case because they don’t want to find a four-year-old dead in a dumpster. Lehane packs in a lot of references to their encounter with Gerry Glynn (Darkness, Take My Hand). One of the cops they work with also tells Kenzie to keep his mouth shut or risk people finding out what really happened to Marion Socia (A Drink Before the War).

Going to enter into spoiler territory for a bit, so if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you might want to bail on the next paragraph.

One of the big questions asked is about which is more important: the biological family or a loving family? Eventually, Patrick and Angie discover that Amanda is still alive and that the kidnappers are raising her as their own daughter. Amanda’s mother, Helene, is a poor parent and a sorry excuse of a human being. On the night Amanda was kidnapped, Helene was at a local bar with her friend while Amanda was home alone, asleep in an unlocked house. Angie argues that Amanda is better off with the kidnappers and that living with Helene will suck the life out of her. Patrick concedes that Amanda might be better off, but what the kidnappers did was wrong and it’s not their place to say Helene is an unfit parent. The disagreement causes a rift between them and they dissolve their partnership at the end of the book. Lehane gives both sides of the argument equal weight and allows the reader to decide which side they come down on.

A quick word on the movie: it’s a must see. It’s extremely faithful to the book, with some changes that make it work on the screen. Even though I’ve seen the movie a bunch of times and knew how things would turn out, the novel was still heart wrenching and extremely powerful.

One of the best reads of the year.

Highly recommended.

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