I’m a huge Dennis Lehane fan. From the Kenzie & Gennaro novels through to Mystic River and Shutter Island. My absolute favourite Lehane novel is The Given Day. It is an absolute epic. Set in Boston as the First World War is drawing to a close, the story centres on the Coughlin family and examines the post-war upheavals in America following the war. Dennis Lehane deftly weaves together baseball, racism, migration, anarchism, labour strikes and family politics to create a novel so rich that not only is it impossible to put down, you wish that it will never end.The Given Day was a major change in storytelling from Lehane so much so that I don’t shelve it in the crime section of our bookshop. It was also the beginning of a planned series that would follow generations of the Coughlin family through Boston and the 20th century.
Live By Night is the next book in that series but works perfectly as a stand alone crime novel. The story centres on the youngest Coughlin brother, Joe who was not prominent in The Given Day. It is now 1926 and prohibition is in full effect. Joe has spurned his police family and turned to a life of crime. He proudly calls himself an outlaw. But prohibition has raised the stakes in the crime world and Joe soon find himself neck deep in a world of gangsters. When he falls in love with one of Boston’s most notorious gangster’s girlfriend Joe soon discovers what real trouble is.
I was hoping for another historical epic with a cast of characters whose stories are all inextricably linked like The Given Day and have to admit to being a little disappointed. I also assumed the next book in the series was going to be the next generation of Coughlins. However as a crime novel this is an absolute cracker: gangsters, a tragic love story and a heap of revenge to be dealt out all during an era in America where criminals couldn’t believe their luck that the Government had banned alcohol. The story ranges from the streets of Boston to its prisons and down the rum routes to Florida and Cuba and you can bet Hollywood is already itching to make this. While it wasn’t the book I wanted it is still a thrilling read and I can’t wait to see where the Coughlin story continues.