Re: RARA-AVIS: early Lehane

From: Patrick King (
Date: 13 Nov 2009

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    But i do want to defend Bubba--he's such an entertaining character--exaggerated and perhaps not very realistic, but he fits in with Lehane's continuing exploratiion of how growing up in a specific time & place shapes character--and the different directions that each character takes.


    Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are a very interesting pairing which is why they survived A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR. It seems to me, Lehane did not want Kenzie to be a tough PI, although how anyone can do that job without being very tough is beyond me. Bubba is Kenzie's muscle. He is, at least in that book, absolutely nothing but a 300 lb gorilla Kenzie calls to do the dirty work. I grew up in Boston and now live 50 miles north of it. Bubba is not a typical Southie name, nor is it easy to find a hitman/bodyguard who is always available unless he is actually employed by you. Bubba does not apparently get paid. His financial arrangement with Kenzie & Gennaro is completely nebulous. He has, in this book anyway, no personality. If he gets killed, which is extremely likely, he barely survives that nonsensical shootout in South Station, it doesn't really matter. Lahane will just have to make up another genial thug who will do Kenzie's bidding. I can see a big,
     dumb guy impressed with a clever little friend, fighting his pal's battle once, even twice if they're butt buddies. But to have this guy at your beck and call, he's on the roof of Macy's with a rifle when your meeting with a drug kingpin goes down... Come on!

    Gennaro's abusive husband also seems like some sort of statement young Lehane wanted to make that doesn't fit into the actual story. How would the woman we come to know as Angela Gennaro possibly have an abusive husband? How could that happen? How does she avoid killing the guy?

    I doubt had I read A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR first, I'd have read anymore Lehane. That somebody with a choice actually thought this was the best new mystery of any year is completely beyond my understanding. It must have been a grim year for the mystery genre. Lehane has grown dramatically since that first novel. And writers do need an opportunity to evolve which is hard without encouragement. In my opinion, the encouragement Lehane received for A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR was unduly gracious.

    Patrick King


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