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A Drink Before the War Hardcover – November, 1994

478 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lehane's assured debut avoids several common first-mystery flaws before stalling on a less ordinary one. Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, two young, smart-mouthed Boston PIs, are hired by a trio of prominent macho politicians to find a State House cleaning woman who may have purloined some important "documents." The pair quickly learns that Jenna Angeline has no documents. She does have a son and a husband who lead rival black street gangs, an angry sister and a photo of one of the pols with her husband in a hotel room. While helping Patrick, Jenna is gunned down in a hail of Uzi fire; gang war is quickly declared, and the two detectives aim for a plan that will avenge the innocent and punish the guilty. Lehane leaps right into the action; more gradually, we learn about Pat's abusive father, Angie's abusive husband and the attraction smoldering between the two principals. The light tone and whipsaw banter, however, can't carry the pace when the action later slows in this mystery that starts with a bang and goes on shooting-but doesn't hit the bull's eye.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this first novel, set in Boston, violence swirls around narrator Patrick Kenzie and partner Angleo Gennaro. This intrepid investigative duo are hired by two state senators to locate a black cleaning woman who filched several sensitive "documents." They find her easily enough, but the items she took, which point to child prostitution and political corruption, cause gang warfare and murder. Lehane's minimal use of literary references helps establish character, as do his frequent allusions to child abuse and wife battering. Rough and tumble action for a high energy, likable pair.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1st edition (November 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015100093X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151000937
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (478 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #908,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

143 of 148 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Started on this series based on a recommendation I read from Michael Connelly (author of a bunch of books, most recently Void Moon). Had never heard of him before --- but man, oh man! This book is incredible, a true page turner --- in a time when page turners really are kind of rare. Mystery-thrillers seem to follow a set formula that a seasoned fan/reader can spot from the beginning. I fell in love with Patrick and Angie and even Bubba. Lehane's characters are so REAL, you feel like you really do know them. They're screwy, quirky, flawed, funny as hell,one or two are downright psychopaths, but you're bound to love them. Tight, well-written -- masterfully written to be honest. Buy this today, and while you're at it, go ahead and order the next four (Darkness, Take My Hand, Sacred, Gone, Baby Gone, and Prayers for Rain). You'll need them fast. This book will leave you literally thirsting for more Lehane.
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71 of 71 people found the following review helpful By K. Barrett on May 26, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Based upon customer reviews of Dennis LeHane's series of novels featuring detectives Kenzie and Gennaro, I bought all of them at one time and have just finished this series debut. I had not quite finished it last night when I went to bed. After about 30 minutes of wondering what was going to happen, I got up and finished the book in the middle of the night. That's gotta tell you something! I am mesmerized by the characters: the detectives are sharp, quirky, risk-taking folks most of the time; and they surround themselves with a wonderful assortment of cohorts from Bubba the bodyguard to Devin and Oscar the cops. Throw in a sympathetic priest and you have an excellent mix of lovable, if not quite understandable, characters. The story was gripping, terrifying and believable. I couldn't wait to start "Darkness, Take my Hand, " the second in the series, but I did wait until the coffee perked this a.m. A must read, but read the series in order so you don't miss the personal and touching references to the childhoods and personal lives of the heroes!
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91 of 95 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I don't give five stars easily -- to anything. If the rating system had 1/2 stars, I might have chosen 4 1/2, but that still would have made A Drink Before the War a great read. The first 100 pages had me scratching my head, wondering what all the fuss has been about Dennis Lehane. I read the book on a recommendation from a pal whose tastes I trust, and I wasn't getting this one. Then...everything changed. Lead character Patrick Kenzie's PI wise-cracking was getting on my nerves. Angie Gennaro's role as his PI partner and domestic punching bag was getting on my nerves. Lehane's tendency to put Kenzie on a soapbox doing riffs on race and politics was getting on my nerves. Then, the "schtick" gave way to a compelling and fast-moving story, with action and intelligence and a plot that I wouldn't have figured out for the world, and I'm good at it. The full body of the story made up for what I felt was a weak start off and came to a shuddering end that left me reeling. All was forgiven. There's no way that I could give this book less than a top rating. Dennis Lehane is on his way to being one of the masters, if only he would tone down the "schtick".
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
To find a great mystery writer is akin to a great bottle of wine for me. Dennis Lehane is one of the best mystery writers around. His stories center around Boston and South Boston is the neighborhood. In "A Drink Before the War" we meet Patrick Kenzie and Anglea Gennaro- a private detective team. Both are locked into their own mysteries- that of abvuse- Patick abuse from his father, a powerful man in his own right. And Angela abuse from her husband. The hint of a relationship is there, but it is subtle and nothing is out in the open.
This mystery opens with a cleaning woman who has stolen papers from an important Boston politico. She asks for assistance and as the storyline deepens- race relations between black and white come to the fore. The streets of Boston are explored and explained. There is violence in this mystery and some of it is not pleasant but somehow opens the mystery to deeper understanding. The writing is superb. This is the beginning of a series exploring Patrick and Angela's relationship and their business partnership. Come along on the journey of Dennis Lehane into the streets and neighborhood of Boston. One of the best writers available- collect all of his books. You will thank me. prisrob
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Untouchable on June 23, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is Lehane's first book, and what a devastatingly brilliant book it is too. It introduces us to Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro and their private investigation business in their hometown of Boston. The Boston we get to see, though, is the lower working class and slum areas of town. This is a hardboiled thriller to the core. Patrick Kenzie is haunted by memories of his abusive father; Angie Gennaro is married to an abusive husband. Together they have a fantastic chemistry in which they can virtually read each other's minds.
Kenzie and Gennaro are hired by a local Senator to find a black cleaning woman who was in his employ until she disappeared with some important documents. The case is simple, find the woman and return the documents. The woman is found, but from this point on, things start to go wrong, and it's clear that Kenzie and Gennaro haven't been told the whole story. They soon find themselves caught up in a gangland war where survival is looking less and less likely.
The dialogue is witty and sharp, the story is very well paced and the characters are very believable and all too real-life. I have read all the other Kenzie-Gennaro books before this one (shame on me for reading this out of order) and rate it very highly in comparison. In actual fact, it would have been of great benefit if I had have read this book first as it puts into perspective events that occur in the later books.
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