Customer Reviews: A Drink Before the War: A Novel (Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro Series)
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on March 5, 2000
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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on May 26, 2000
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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on November 6, 1999
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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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon September 11, 2003
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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on June 23, 2001
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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Dennis Lehane, A Drink Before the War (Avon, 1994)

This was my third trip through the wonderful world of Dennis Lehane (I started with Mystic River and then went on to Darkness, Take My Hand). While it was enjoyable enough, and is of historic value for introducing the world to Kenzie and Gennaro, I didn't get as much of a kick out of this one as I did out of the first two. Much of the reason for this is that Lehane spends far too much time in this book having Patrick Kenzie stop the action, turn to the reader, and make speeches about various political subjects. To Lehane's credit, at least they have something to do with the novel's plot, and they're never long enough to really start detracting from the novel itself. That they exist at all, though, is a problem. To his credit, it's obvious from the two more recent works I read before this one that Lehane has gotten much slicker at integrating medium with message since, and thus a little leeway should be allowed him here; those who found themselves turned off by the moralizing here should give Lehane another chance. Those who haven't read it yet, be prepared. Once you get past the moralizing, there's a fine little mystery/action hybrid here. ***
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on November 7, 2000
This is a terrific book, superbly written by Dennis Lehane. I've liked the characters so much I haven't missed a single book in the series, and each one is of the highest quality. This is the first of the Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro series, and the characters are vivid, dialogue is witty and intelligent, the plot complex and believable, and the description of scenes and action terrific. At times Lehane is poetic in his turns of phrases. Others have likened him to Robert Parker--the similarity is purely superficial in that both have Boston private eyes who use snappy dialogue. Lehane is without a doubt by far the superior writer. His novels are worthy literature, whereas Parker's are, well, a fun read. It seems to me that there is a terrific new generation of writers out there, from Michael Connelly to James Hall, who cover the territory of writing--characterisation, plot, description, tone--so wonderfully that I never want to miss one of their books. I'd add Dennis Lehane to that list. This book has my highest recommendation.
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VINE VOICEon February 3, 2004
Dennis Lehane is that rare author who manages to combines the ability of a masterful wordsmith with interesting plots and storylines that raise significant issues. I first read SHUTTER ISLAND (review 5/7/03) and was so blown away by the conclusion that I immediately decided to read more of his work. I next chose MYSTIC RIVER given the wonderful reviews that it generated; while it fully confirmed his incredible talents as an author, it was so unrelenting dark and depressing that I literally had trouble completing the book (review 6/27/03). My conclusion was that Lehane's view of the human experience (at least in regard to the subjects of his novels) could almost be summarized by the well known admonition "abandon hope all ye who enter here". I recently decided that I would attempt to read his acclaimed debut novel A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR since I am an avid reader of the genre (detective series). I knew it was the first of five volumes in a series with Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro as the central characters, and I was interested in reading his original work in order to see how his style and talents had evolved since then. I am very glad that I decided not to abandon his books after MYSTIC RIVER, since I found this a wonderful read despite my reservations described later in this review.
This is a dark story involving a group of Boston politicos who hire Patrick Kenzie and his associate and high school friend Angela Gennaro to retrieve some documents purportedly stolen by a cleaning woman who has subsequently disappeared. However, their assignment quickly becomes complicated by violence directed against Patrick and by a subsequent murder; they realize that a simple case whose solution would ingratiate them with the wielders of political power in their city (and thus the dispensers of meaningful favors on occasion) involves much more than a few missing documents. Thus begins a powerful story that foreshadows many of the themes in Lehane's later books, especially the theme of abuse so powerfully examined in MYSTIC RIVER. Sin and redemption, hate and love, the continuation of hope in the face of overwhelming odds and the possibility and role of forgiveness in human relationships all figure prominently in this story. Numerous instances of both child and spousal abuse (physical and psychological) are central to this story; they are gradually revealed very skillfully by the author as we get to know Angela and Patrick. In addition, there are significant racial overtones and the threat of gang warfare is omnipresent as one of the many personal battles and turf conflicts to which the title refers.
The conclusion is somewhat predictable and certainly foreshadowed, but the pleasure in this story is in the wonderfully descriptive passages which Lehane provides and the psychological depth of the main characters counterposed with the well recognized caricatures of many of the peripheral actors in this drama. My caution concerning this book and the indecision which I have about reading more of Lehane's work stems from the extreme amount of brutality and violence graphically depicted. While most of the violence is essential to the storyline, there is one torture scene so shockingly detailed that I recommend that the squeamish not read this book. However, my enjoyment of the author's narrative skills combined with an ending ambivalent enough to provide hope for the future that I decided that despite my qualms the book deserved a five star rating. AND THE TWO PAGE OPENING IS ONE OF THE BEST THAT I HAVE EVER READ, it provides a great hook and accurately sets the tone for the reading adventure that you will experience.
Tucker Andersen
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on December 3, 2000
4 1/2 stars are what I would give this book if Amazon allowed. Its no wonder this story published by Lehane was winner of the Shamus award for best first novel. Private investigators and best friends Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro are given a red-hot political case; recover documents stolen off a U.S. senator's desk by the cleaning lady. Little do the P.I.'s know that these vital papers, if in the wrong hands, could bring down the career of Massachusetts top officials and provoke the city of Boston into a riot.
In their search for the missing housekeeper and the papers she allegedly stole, Patrick and Angie discover that the senator is holding a corrupt and ugly secret. If exposed, he will surely face ruin and a race "war" will erupt due to the nature of his dirty deed. Car chases, dodging bullets, and confrontations with cold-blooded killers are just a few of the sticky situations Patrick and Angie get caught up in. In the meantime, they are struggling to keep their relationship on the professional level, which is not easy for either of them. Patrick knows that he is in love with Angie, however, she is married to an abusive husband and is afraid to leave for fear of her life.
I give Lehane a lot of credit for addressing the issue of race and how racial tensions and stereotypes are generated. This is a sensitive subject which many writers would probably fear to express secondary to being politically incorrect. Lehane gives an honest and objective viewpoint as to how people of different ethnic backgrounds scrutinize one another. Another thing I loved about the story was the detailed and accurate description of the city of Boston. If you've ever been to Boston, you'll know exactly what streets, buildings, and landmarks, Lehane speaks of. I hope Lehane keeps up the good gritty writing because he certainly has a knack for it.
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VINE VOICEon January 4, 2008
Dennis Lehane, famous for the novel and resulting movie Mystic River, has written a series of detective novels about PI Patrick Kenzie and his partner Angie Genaro. This pair of Boston detectives are united by a common history of domestic abuse and a childhood romance that derailed before it could succeed. They are hired to find some papers supposedly stolen by a domestic and are consequently embroiled in a cover-up conspiracy that has connections throughout the city of Boston, including some of the local gangs.

Kenzie and Genaro navigate this web of dark conspiracy and ultimately learn the truth at the heart of this mystery. Their job is life-threatening and dangerous, but these characters are not easily intimidated and know how to manage tricky situations, with the help of some bizarre friends. In the best noir tradition, the dialogue is filled with wry humor and sassy repartee. The characters are beautifully described and engaging. The story is enthralling with an dengaging romantic yet melancholy tension between the two main characters that creates a vibrant yet chthonic atmosphere.

A word of warning, this story is filled with violence and some graphic descriptions of heinous child abuse. Normally this would keep me from finishing the novel, but it was so well written I stayed with the story.
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