Review: A Drink Before The War – Dennis Lehane

a drink before the war dennis lehane cover

Kenzie & Gennaro #1

Private detective Patrick Kenzie meets with Sterling Mulkern, a politician, and takes a job from Mulkern and two of his cohorts to track down Jenna Angeline, a former cleaning lady of theirs. It seems like a pretty simple case, all Mulkern wants is some documents that she took with her. Patrick meets up with his partner, Angela Gennaro, and the two decide to start looking into things. After taking the job, Patrick sustains some injuries in an attack outside of the church across from his home, though he is alive. Tracking Jenna down does not prove to be too much of a hassle for the duo, but then they are very good at their jobs. Patrick and Angie and best friends, and he is slightly in love with her, though he is a known womaniser.

Along the way, kids on the street warn Patrick that he must be careful of Roland, though nobody seems to want to elaborate on that. After finding Jenna, Patrick goes with her to a safety deposit box where she has hidden the documents, which turn out to not be documents, but a photograph that will be highly damaging for one Mulkern’s cohorts. Leaving the bank, Jenna is gunned down, and Patrick barely makes it out alive. At Jenna’s funeral, it is discovered that seriously scary mobster Marion Socia is Jenna’s husband, and the terrifying Roland that Patrick has been warned about is her sixteen year old son. Things are taking on a whole different outlook.

Investigating further, Angela is dealing with her extremely abusive husband, Phil, and will not let Patrick help her at all because she loves Phil. The more they look into things, the more they are dealing with race, gender, and socio-economic issues. Marion Socia and Roland are heading up opposing gangs, and as much as Mulkern wants the “documents” that Jenna stole, it would seem that Marion wants them just as badly. Now that Jenna has passed away, a full-fledged war between father and son seems imminent, seeing as how it has been brewing for years. Instead of just backing out of the equation, Patrick and Angie get more involved than ever, wanting to get to the bottom of the photos, to figure out why a street terrorism bill that was initially pushed so hard is suddenly not getting any action, especially since the gang violence is escalating immensely. They need to find the rest of the photos that Jenna hid, and they need to do it soon, and they need to keep safe, because Socia and Roland want them both dead, and they want that bad.

Why is there such strife between Socia and Roland? Where did Jenna hide the rest of the photos? What are in the rest of the photos? Will Patrick and Angie survive this gang war? How will they deal with the violence, as well as the personal issues they are facing with love, friendship, survivial, race and class? What is going on with the street terrorism bill? How desperate is Mulkern to cover up the photos of Brian Paulson? Will Patrick ever accept that Angie and Phil are married, and that she lets him smack her around the way he does?

GRADE 7.5I have been meaning to get to this series for a while now, because I really like Lehane’s work (which I am sure you all know by now). I finally decided to get cracking on this one, and I was impressed. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters in here, and the humour and sarcasm was sharp and in abundance – definitely enjoyable. It got a little wearing for me when the whole racism issue was addressed, but that is purely because I am so over hearing about racism, having that card played for everything in my country, and it features prominently in the subjects that I have been studying for my course (though that was to be obvious, of course). The writing style flowed, and Lehane painted a fantastic picture of Boston. I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between Angie and Patrick, and I felt sorry for the both of them and the demons that they kept hidden in their closets. This is a fast read with some solid pacing, so you can’t go wrong there either. The plot flows, and whisks you along with it. It is a gripping story, too, and I had a lot of fun with it, though it does tackle some heavy and serious issues. This was a great introduction to the series, and another great read from Lehane. I am immensely impressed that this was his debut novel, and I definitely recommend it.

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9 thoughts on “Review: A Drink Before The War – Dennis Lehane

  1. Beer Movie says:

    Nice review Zoe. I love this series. I may have even recommended it to you at one point or another. I was always bummed out that Lehane didn’t turn this into an massively long series of crime novels. I’ve read them all and it does not really look like there are more on the horizon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zoë says:

      Thanks Tim! You did (a very long time ago, hence they ended up on my reading list haha). Yeah, it doesn’t look like more will be coming, which is sad, because I am just having far too much fun in this neo-noir world he created!

      Liked by 1 person

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