Dennis Lehane scores another knockout with his Moonlight Mile. Lehane brings us a sequel to Gone Baby Gone. Amanda McCready, now 16, disappeared, again. Like last time, Aunt Beatrice requests the help of private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Only this time Angela and Patrick are married and have a young daughter, Gabriella. Angela has retired from the detecting business, and gone back to school.
Lehane, a Boston native, splits his time between Boston and Tampa Bay. He keeps the story relevant. His detectives struggle making their payments, especially their health insurance premiums. Detectives have a high incidence of on-the-job injuries. We also notice in the Boston-based story, many of the houses are vacant from either foreclosures or short-sells. Patrick finds himself forced to take work he might normally turn down, but who can afford to turn a job down in this economy?
Given the bad times, he still takes on the McCready case pro-bono. Amanda’s current situation is partially his fault. He did the legally right thing last time, but it may not have been the correct thing. Amanda’s mom continues to associate with the less desirable elements of society such as drug dealers, Russian mobsters, and identity thieves.
In Gone Baby Gone, Patrick returned Amanda to her dirt bag mother, almost assuring Amanda would fail in life. Lehane wrote Patrick into a moral corner last time, it created stress within Patrick as well as between Patrick and Angela. We soon learn, though, the controversy continues to plague their lives. How will Patrick respond this time? Will his character grow?
Lehane’s stories provide an enjoyable read. Their realistic, human characters with real world dilemmas and issues create stories that captivate readers. His command of the English language makes us think and laugh.
For instance, Amanda attends a private school on scholarship. The school caters to rich parents’ daughters with bad tendencies. Patrick must interview her classmates. Afterward, Patrick shares his thoughts with us.
Five thousand years of civilization, more or less, twenty-three hundred years since the libraries of Alexandria, over a hundred years since the invention of flight, wafer thin computers at our fingertips… and judging by the girls in that room, the only advance we’d made since the invention of fire was turning like into an omni-word, useful as a verb, a noun, an article, the whole sentence if need be.
Parents’ quizzing their own teenagers empathize with Patrick. At least with your own children, you hope some bond or relationship exists. Imagine questioning a room full of teenage girls with nothing but disdain for the inquisitor.
Here is another example of Lehane’s artistic text. Patrick and Angela are having a heated discussion over whether to look for Amanda. Gabby is sleeping upstairs. They take the discussion outside. Angel reaches for her smokes. A habit Patrick wishes she didn’t practice.
I normally can’t stand vice-free people. They conflate a narcissistic instinct for self-preservation with moral superiority. Plus, they suck the life right out of the party. Angie knows I’d love if she didn’t smoke, and Angie would love it if she didn’t smoke. But, for now, she smokes. I for my part, deal with it and stay off her ass.
Lehane does a great job of showing us rather than telling us, Patrick doesn’t like Angie smoking. Lehane goes from highbrow to lowbrow with the concept; while at the same time he demonstrates how couples deal with real issues in their life.
One last example, Patrick describes why they haven’t moved out of the city and into the suburbs. “I like the sound of jackhammers, the bleat of sirens in the night, twenty-four hour diners, graffiti, coffee served in cardboard cups, steam exhaled through man-hole covers, cobblestone, tabloid newspapers, the Citgo sign …”
Anyone who has lived in a northern city relates to his description. If the person no longer lives there, he will feel a moment of nostalgia. In Boston, the Citgo sign stands apparent across the river from Harvard and MIT, and before you get to Fenway Park.
Lehane exhibits a mastery of the storytelling trade. He is truly a wordsmith. His characters are real, and they deal with real issues in realistic ways. No James Bond tricks.
Everyone is a little bit bad, and the bad guys are human unless they’re psychopaths. Chances are you grew up with the drug dealer down the street. Maybe you dated his sister in high school. Society has a tendency to paint things in black and white, good or bad, but that is not the reality. Lehane gives fiction couched in reality.