Wednesday, 7 June 2017

My review of 'Since We Fell' by Dennis Lehane.

It’s been some time since I’ve reviewed a book. Well over a year in fact but I felt that it was time to pay tribute to one of my favourite authors to celebrate the release of his latest book. Well overdue in fact. The author in question is Dennis Lehane and the book in question is ‘Since We Fell’.

‘Since We Fell’ tells the story of Rachel who starts off my shooting her husband on his boat and watching him fall into Boston harbour. At this point we know very little about Rachel we don’t in fact even know who the husband she has just shot is. As it turns out she gets married twice. We then jump back in time to Rachel’s childhood where the tale of her search for her father begins. He disappeared when she was only three years old and her recollections of him are limited to his hair, his smile and the fact that he smelled of coffee and corduroy. Receiving no help whatsoever from her mother, quite the opposite in fact, she struggles to find him. She can’t even get his name out of her so when Mom is killed in a traffic accident with a fuel truck she is stuck in a form of emotional limbo. She has no way to track her father down and yet must find him in order to find any sort of peace in her life. Her odd and manipulative mother Elizabeth kept his name and whereabouts from her despite her pleading with her to tell her who he was and how she could get hold of him. As it turns out Elizabeth’s motives for keeping her daughter in the dark are as messed up and self-centred as you’re ever likely to find. It would seem that Mom, who was the author of best-selling series of books on marriage, had more than just a few bats loose in the attic.

Rachel plods on with her life as best she can but the identity of her father continues to haunt her every move. She even enlists the services of a private investigator to track him down but the plot only thickens with each stone that she turns over. Needless to say she is unable to let go of her search and it dominates and complicates every facet of the rest of her life.

The men in her life, besides her long lost father, are a strange bunch to say the least. There is the guy she tracks down thinking and hoping that he was her father but isn’t. The guy who reminds her of her mother who she marries who turns out to be just like her mother only worse. The guy who probably was her father but she could never be sure because died before she could meet him and the guy who reminded her of how she imagined her father to be so she marries him and who then turns out to be someone completely different but by then it’s too late. It’s a complicated life full of emptiness, endless searches, on-air breakdowns and therapy sessions.

“I hate you. I love you. I’ll miss you for the rest of my fucking life,” she says at one point.

‘Since We Fell’ is a change of pace again from Lehane who started off with a private investigator team series and then moved on to a couple of standalone books and then another series set in the 20s. Some of the dialogue in the book sizzles. My favourite conversation being between Rachel and Detective Kessler who is trying to put her and her husband in jail which as it turns out is probably as good a place as any for them to be. For their sakes as well as our own.

“I’ve been on some fucked-up cases, if you’ll excuse my language, but this is one of the more fucked-up ones I been on of late. I got a dead blonde in Rhody, a missing guy leading a double life, his lying wife –”

“I’m not lying.”

“Oh ho!” He wagged a finger at her. “Yes yes yes you are, Mrs Delacroix. You’re telling me so many lies I can’t even count them. And your neighbour there, the married guy in the Members Only jacket and the JCPenny slacks without the wedding ring? Guys like him don’t live in buildings like yours. He didn’t even know where the fucking garage was, and the doorman had clearly never seen him before.”

“I didn’t notice.”

“Lucky I’m a cop. They fucking pay us to notice shit like that.”

Tarantino would have been proud of that effort.

Over the last twenty-three years Lehane has amassed an impressive back catalogue with thirteen novels and a collection of short stories. Six of his books make up the ‘Kenzie – Gennaro’ series that he started off with and then there’s three books from the ‘Coughlin’ series as well as a collection of short stories and four standalone books of which ‘Since We Fell’ is the fourth.

The ‘Kenzie – Gennaro’ books are the ones that put Lehane on the map and run from his impressive debut ‘A Drink Before The War’ in 1994 through to ‘Prayers For Rain’ in 1999. Eleven years later he revisited the duo of private investigators in ‘Moonlight Mile’ after writing a couple of blockbusting standalones (‘Mystic River’ and ‘Shutter Island’ – both of which were turned into outstanding movies my Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese respectively).

It was the fourth book in the ‘Kenzie – Gennaro’ series that caught my eye, literally. As so often happens with me I discovered this author through a film adaptation of one of his books. This is how I’ve made some of my most endearing discoveries in literature over the years. Other authors I’ve found this way include Jim Thompson and Henning Mankell. ‘Gone, Baby Gone’ was made into a film in 2007 by Ben Affleck and made such an impression that I was forced to search out the author of such a great story and start reading his books.

For me though it is his two standalone novels ‘Mystic River’ and ‘Shutter Island’ that really stole the show though. ‘Mystic River’ in particular is one of the great American crime novels and is as good a place as any to start discovering the magic of Dennis Lehane and discover it you should. He has developed into an author who can now be mentioned in the same breath as Ellroy and that ladies and gentlemen is no mean feat whatsoever.

“We are not special. We are lit from within by a single candle flame, and when that flame is blown out and all light leaves our eyes, it is the same as if we never existed at all. We don’t own our life, we rent it.”


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