Sacred is the third novel in Dennis Lehane’s ‘Kenzie & Gennaro’ series. Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are Boston private investigators and have featured in ‘A Drink Before the War’ and ‘Darkness, Take My Hand’ previously. Both of Sacred’s predecessors I enjoyed hugely, Lehane writes with grit, realism (to a degree), and a wit that runs throughout each novel.
At the beginning of Sacred, Kenzie and Gennaro, still reeling from the events that occurred in ‘Darkness, Take my Hand’, are employed by a Billionaire, Trevor Stone, to find his missing daughter. However, they are not the first investigators on this case – Kenzie’s one time mentor was searching for Desiree Stone for a few weeks but is also now missing. As the investigation gathers momentum, Kenzie and Gennaro find themselves embroiled in lies and deceit from every side of the story. After finding what is essentially a cult that operates as a therapeutic organisation offering counselling, the detectives follow Desiree’s trail from Boston to Florida in the hope that she is still alive.
Sacred is essentially an updated version of Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’; it is a simple thriller based on an investigation into a missing person. However, Lehane does so much more than just simple! The unexpected twists and turns throughout this novel make for a very interesting thriller. Setting the novel first in Boston, where the main characters are very much at home, and then moving them South expanded the scope and scale of the story from the previous two books in the series. This ‘bigger’ story worked well and I certainly got the impression that Lehane wanted more of a blockbuster of a novel, yet I still felt close to the characters. There were several action packed scenes within the story that, although overblown, were still important to drive the story forwards and exciting to read. These scenes do have a certain degree of implausibility, but I’ve only really thought about this on reflection – they should be more at home in a big action sequence in a summer blockbusting film than within a detective novel, but despite this they seem to fit just right. When reading, the reader is already invested in the characters and the situation enough to believe in what is going on; Lehane provides a high level of detail and character reaction within the story which is a convincing factor and keeps the reader hooked.
The novel, as the two previous books, is narrated by Patrick Kenzie. His ‘voice’ holds these novels together. He is such a convincing character – the way he talks, thinks, interacts with others is entirely convincing as though he is an actual person. Patrick is not perfect and neither is he trying to be so, but he does care for his friends that surround him, and he wants justice. His relationship with Angie is believable and the two characters are a compelling duo. Often with a thriller such as this, the main characters are an extreme version of what a person can truly be; neither Patrick nor Angie seems exaggerated. The two protagonists are vulnerable, fearful, and emotional characters that I think that any reader will feel comfortable with and want to invest time with; in essence they are very likable.
Although I do not think it is necessary to have read either of the two predecessors before reading Sacred, I do think it is worthwhile in order to have the larger backstory. Lehane doesn’t spend too much time in introducing the characters; however, I didn’t think there were many unexplained references to the previous novels and no references were integral to the overall plot of this story. Lehane has created a very good series (so far) for these characters, and I will keep on reading them. If you are looking for a short series of detective/action/thriller novels, then these could be for you. I like that there are just six books in the series, compare this to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series for example (the 20th novel is to be released later this year), it means that those completest readers out there have a much less onerous task on their hands.
One final thought, if you’re not good with bridges and travelling over them, you may need to reconsider reading this book.
If you have read Sacred you may like:
- Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham
- Killing Floor by Lee Child
- Birdman by Mo Hayder