Moonlight Mile pleases eager fans

Mystery readers have an extra reason to be thankful this November. Dennis Lehane is back with a new novel, Moonlight Mile (William Morrow & Co., $27), and he’s resurrected his most popular recurring characters for the occasion.

Fans got their first taste of Lehane in 1994 with A Drink Before the War (Harcourt), the novel that introduced Boston-based private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. The story didn’t break new ground, but the appeal of his protagonists was undeniable: funny, sexy and violent when necessary. And his intimate knowledge of Boston, along with his love of shady supporting characters, made the book irresistible.

Lehane copped a Shamus Award for Best First Novel, and treated fans to four more Kenzie-Gennaro books—including Gone, Baby, Gone—before benching the characters after Prayers for Rain in 1999. Clearly, Lehane was ready to flex his literary muscles. To no one’s surprise, he delivered not one, but two blockbusters: Mystic River and Shutter Island. Naturally, Hollywood came calling.

When Lehane delivered Coronado, a collection of previously published short stories, and The Given Day, a historical novel about the 1919 Boston Police Strike, critics were kind, but Lehane’s core audience couldn’t help but wonder if Lehane would put Kenzie and Gennaro back to work. Happily, he has.

Moonlight Mile is the much-anticipated sequel to Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone, which was adapted for the big screen by Ben Affleck in 2007. In that book, Kenzie and Gennaro are called in to locate recently kidnapped Amanda McCready, a neglected 4-year-old. They uncover a plot involving drug dealers, crooked cops and a complex ethical question: Namely, is it right to return a kidnapped child when her captors can offer her a more stable environment?

It’s been a long wait, but Moonlight Mile is a novel that Lehane couldn’t have written a decade ago. Kenzie and Gennaro have married since we last saw them, and have a daughter of their own. Years of P.I. work have left a bad taste in their mouths; Patrick struggles to get a job with benefits while Angie finishes her college degree. Predictably, their lives are turned upside down when Amanda—now 16 years old—goes missing again and Patrick is contacted by Amanda’s grandmother—just as he was in Gone, Baby, Gone—to locate her a second time. The story is gimmicky, but good, and filled with the usual Lehane flourishes, including Russian thieves, inept low-level criminals and Bubba Rogowski, Kenzie’s shady, but lovable back-up man. Lehane makes a running joke of how much Kenzie has aged in the intervening years, but Lehane himself appears to be on top of his game. Hopefully, it won’t be another dozen years before we hear from Kenzie and Gennaro again.

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