I finished reading Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane a few days ago and I rather liked it. The book is the second in the authors Kenzie and Gennaro series – Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are Private Detectives working in Boston in the early ‘90s. I read the first book in the series (A Drink Before the War) in early 2013 and enjoyed it. I generally don’t read a series of books by one author in a row (there have been a few notable exceptions, for example The Hunger Games trilogy), preferring to leave a gap between books so that they can be enjoyed over a longer period of time. I am also conscious that if I have enjoyed a book I don’t want to get fed up of the author by reading too much in one go.
Darkness, Take My Hand is set a few months after the first novel and reintroduces the reader to the characters. There is a small recap of events throughout the story but it is not explicit, this I really liked; unlike some series or sequels there is no exposition that painstakingly recaps the previous story. There was also less character background in this book (although you do get more information about the detectives’ childhoods) as this was covered in A Drink Before the War. Some new characters are introduced alongside some characters that were only mentioned in passing previously. Kenzie and Gennaro’s world is very much expanded within this novel without losing its way from the main plot. This expansion allows the reader to be swallowed up into the Boston that the protagonists reside in, making their surroundings ever more believable.
The book itself has a relatively simple plot deep down, but is filled with some good, unexpected twists (yet these all remain believable). I am purposefully not making mention to what the story is about as it would be too easy to give too much away. It is gritty in the best way with the characters taking the limelight rather than the action set pieces. The relationship between Kenzie and Gennaro is a strong, passionate friendship but not overly sexualised. The interactions between the detectives are very well written with a stripped back dialogue that you would expect from two people that have known each other for much of their lives. The dialogue tone seems to fit perfectly with what my thoughts are of a South Boston accent. To compliment this sharp dialogue the novel is narrated by Patrick Kenzie, this first person perspective lends itself well to this style of novel, especially when there are two main characters.
The novel is fast paced and builds well to its crescendo; I certainly read the second half of this book a lot more quickly than the first half and not because the first was in any way slow. The book is violent in parts, yet this is a necessity and not gratuitous. When reading I always felt that the situations could happen, the book didn’t divert into a grandiose version of itself. The ‘baddies’ (for want of a better word) were not nice but not wholly undefeatable, their weaknesses as bold as their unpleasantness. Kenzie and Gennaro are morally conflicted individuals with huge amounts of emotional baggage to carry; Kenzie is egotistical and snappy, Gennaro more gentle and seemingly fragile. Despite these things both are very likable and actually strong, especially when together and they make a good literary duo.
Overall I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone, especially those that like detective/crime/thriller novels. I will be continuing with the series, probably sometime in 2015 with Sacred.
Note: The fourth book in the series Gone, Baby, Gone was made into a film directed by Ben Affleck in 2007 (his directorial debut) and is excellent. Casey Affleck plays the role of Patrick Kenzie and Michelle Monaghan as Angela Gennaro