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Excellent and gripping, but not for the faint of heart
on January 20, 2001
There are soooo many mystery writers out there these days, but there is only a handful who truly produce first-rate work on a consistent basis. Dennis Lehane is definitely a member of this elite, and *Darkness, Take My Hand* demonstrates why.
Like Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and some others in the P.I./lone wolf cop genre, Lehane has written his books in such a way that they are best read "in order," as each book builds on the previous one(s) in terms of the development of his main characters. Consequently, readers should read Lehane's first book, *A Drink Before the War*, before picking up *Darkness, Take My Hand*, which is the second in the series.
In most respects, however, *Darkness* is a richer, deeper, and better-crafted mystery than was Lehane's debut novel. He has utilized a well-worn but still effective plot theme here, that of the long-term serial killer. This provides the basis for the mystery element of the book, and also, perhaps unfortunately, the blood-and-guts angle, as well. Yes, there is a lot of gore in this book, and lots of discussion in graphic detail of the depravities of which human beings are capable. Lehane's work is NOT for the faint of heart.
What separates Lehane from many other mystery writers, even good ones like Robert Parker, is his sheer literary talent. His writing is gloriously rich, descriptive (particularly in terms of his depictions of the Boston area setting for his stories), and insightful, and he goes to great pains to develop in some psychological depth his main characters, Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. Consequently, this enables Lehane to take his work well beyond the cliches that are so typical of shamus novels.
If you like the work of Parker, Connelly, Crais, Barre, Burke, etc., you should definitely start reading Lehane--in order, of course.