One of my favorite crime writers, Dennis Lehane, is back with a new novel next week, Small Mercies. It’s been a long time coming. It’s his first since 2017’s Since We Fell. He took time off from novels, but he was still writing, mostly for television, including The Wire, Mr. Mercedes, and the recent Apple TV limited series Blackbird. Set in 1974 amid the Boston busing crises, Small Mercies appears to blend three of his consistent motifs: history, crime, working-class Boston, and his exploration of the darker side of human nature. Lehane is known for his meticulous research and his ability to create vivid and immersive settings. Advance reviews have been glowing and I can’t wait to read it.
If you are new to Lehane’s work, it spans multiple genres, including crime fiction, historical fiction, and psychological thriller. He is perhaps best known for his Kenzie and Gennaro series, which follows the adventures of two private detectives in Boston, as well as his standalone novels such as Mystic River and Shutter Island. Lehane’s work has been adapted into numerous films, including the critically acclaimed Mystic River, directed by Clint Eastwood and Shutter Island starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.
Looking for a place start? Here are my five favorites:
This novel is a masterful exploration of friendship, loyalty, and the impact of a childhood trauma that lingers into adulthood. The story follows three childhood friends whose lives intersect again when one of their daughters goes missing, and the subsequent events unravel a complex web of secrets and lies. Mystic River was adapted into a highly acclaimed film directed by Clint Eastwood.
Gone, Baby, Gone
This is the fourth book in Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro series, featuring private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. When a young girl goes missing in a working-class Boston neighborhood, Kenzie and Gennaro are hired to investigate, and their search for the truth takes them into the dark alleys of the city. This novel is an unflinching and suspenseful exploration of morality, justice, and the consequences of choices.
This psychological thriller is set on an isolated island off the coast of Massachusetts, where a U.S. Marshal is sent to investigate the disappearance of a prisoner from a mental institution. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a disturbing conspiracy that challenges his own sanity. Shutter Island is a suspenseful and atmospheric novel that keeps readers guessing until the shocking conclusion.
Live by Night
This is the second book in Lehane’s Coughlin series, following the rise of Joe Coughlin, a Boston gangster during the Prohibition era. The novel spans from Boston to Florida, as Coughlin becomes involved in organized crime and grapples with the consequences of his choices. Live by Night is a well-researched and intricately plotted historical crime novel that delves into the complexities of power, family, and morality.
Darkness, Take My Hand
This is the second Kenzie/Gennaro and it’s a gritty and atmospheric, drawing readers into the dark and seedy underbelly of Boston. The plot is intricately crafted and the characters are flawed and relatable. The story is an exploration of the human psyche and the lengths people will go to protect their secrets is both chilling and thought-provoking. The book deals with themes of trauma, redemption, and the search for justice in a morally ambiguous world.
Overall, Dennis Lehane has a diverse body of work that encompasses mystery, thriller, historical, and crime fiction, with well-drawn characters and intricate plots that keep readers engaged. His books are known for their atmospheric settings, gritty realism, and thought-provoking themes, making him a highly respected and widely read author in the literary world. Any of the five books above would give you a great introduction to the best-selling author.