Reviewed by TONY BAER:


DENNIS LEHANE – Gone Baby Gone. Patrick Kenzie & Angie Gennaro #4. William Morrow, hardcover, 1998; paperback, 1999. Reprinted several times since. Film: 2007, with Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan.

   Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro are Boston PI’s.

   They get hired to try to find a missing child. The child’s mother is a wastrel, a waste, heavy drug using, sexed up, alcoholic piece of used jet trash. And neglectful to boot, constantly leaving her young child untended, sunburned at the beach, or left to rot in front of the television. Yet she wants the child back.

   Turns out the kidnapping is part of a much deeper conspiracy, and the mother was a drug mule who absconded with a couple hundred thousand dollars from some guys you better not mess with.

   And the deeper Kenzie and Gennaro dive into things, the deeper the conspiracy goes.

   The book is much longer than is my wont, clocking in at over 400 pages. But it came in #9 on the Thrilling Detective poll of the top 14 PI novels of all time — so that put it in my TBR.

   It was alright. Compelling enough to keep me flipping the pages. But it doesn’t, to my mind, rank that high as a PI novel. It’s fine for a marginally disturbing beach read. But that’s about it.

   Then again, I’m quite biased in favor of mid-century PI novels. I feel like something of the immediacy of the language, terseness, to the point-ness, joltiness, briskness, tightness, has been lost somewhere between the mid-century and now.

   I can’t quite put my finger on it. But our language has become flaccid. It’s certainly not a problem unique to Lehane — he’s better than most. I feel like it infects/inflects most of our contemporary use of language.

   And I’m no exception.