C.E.'s Reviews > A Drink Before the War

A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Aug 25, 12

it was amazing
Read in August, 2012

In Patrick Kenzie, Lehane has come the closest we've seen to creating a modern-day Phillip Marlowe. Yeah, that's high praise but Lehane's story has all the traits that make Chandler's work so inviting--a hard-boiled detective lead, a tremendous sense of place and (most importantly) a great voice as a narrator.

Of course, there are differences, Lehane is no mere Chandler knock off. Kenzie is younger than Marlow, the place is Boston etc, but the wit and voice and world-weary musings on human nature come from the same place. The result is a fresh update on a classic formula, one that does far more than enough to rise above knockoff status.

The plot is well-constructed; Kenzie and partner Angie Genarro are hired to find a Massachusetts state house maid who has absconded with some documents that certain politicians wish to locate and reclaim. From there, the detectives are drawn quickly into a web of gang wars and perversion. Although this is nothing especially unique for this type of novel, Lehane paces things well and the mystery is compelling enough to be a first rate page turner. The real star is Lehane himself. His Kenzie is a great narrator with a distinct voice and enough honesty to avoid painting himself as some sort of hero above the fray. Through Kenzie's eyes, Lehane is able to explore a wide range of human traits and tendencies as well as provide a street-level tour guide through Boston's socio-political landscape. He does all this with a biting, self-deprecating sense of humor laced with wild flights of understatement that invite (and stand up to) the inevitable Marlowe comparisons.

I read "Shutter Island" a few years ago and have to admit, wasn't especially smitten with it. A Drink Before the War is, for me, a much better testament to the high praise Lehane's work has garnered. It transcends genre in a way that places it at the very top of American crime fiction.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read A Drink Before the War.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.