A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane

I very recently read my first Dennis Lehane novel and I was hooked. When another opportunity came up on my Book Bub list, I jumped at the chance to grab it and I was not disappointed. This book was a compelling read. I started reading it during a blackout and was so engrossed that I read it in one sitting. Sometimes there is an advantage to disengaging from the wired world.

The story is set in South Boston. Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro grew up together and now have a Private Investigation agency located in the belfry of a local church. In exchange for free rent, they do light security duty for the parish priest. As the book opens, Patrick is summoned to meet with a group of local political players who want the agency to retrieve some documents that have gone missing. All signs point to a cleaning woman having removed them.

From there, the actions kicks right in as Patrick and Angie pursue the cleaning woman and in turn are pursued by two rival gangs and their leaders who also want both the cleaning woman and the documents. In the mix, there is also a bill set to go before the House involving regulating gang activity and this also plays a role in the story.

Patrick and Angie have great chemistry and there is a wrench in the works: Angie is married to a third high school buddy who is also very abusive to her and has been for years. Patrick alternately wants to save her, encourages her to save herself and wants a relationship with her but both know that her husband is a loose cannon. This story line mirrors that of the cleaning woman although their outcomes are very different.

The scenes are so well described you feel yourself squarely in South Boston and the downtown environs. This is a writer who knows his city intimately and that comes through in the work. The writing is gritty in a good way and there is an edge of black humor that keeps the whole story in perspective.

I’m a Lehane convert and I can easily recommend this book which looks like it might be a first in a series for these characters and you will want to revisit them.

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