59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
"Godfather" like saga filled with great characters and loads of fine drama,
This review is from: Live by Night: (Coughlin, Book 2) (Joe Coughlin Series) (Hardcover)
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In the opening paragraph of this new novel by Dennis Lehane, the hero of our story Joe Coughlin finds himself with his feet in cement and about to tossed overboard into the water off Tampa Florida. The novel then flashes back to telling Joe's story beginning in 1926.
"Live by Night" is the second in a planned trilogy of stories exploring the early part of the 20th century. The first book, "The Given Day" was an utterly brilliant story examining the country in the period just following World War 1 and featured Danny Coughlin, Joe's older brother.
This book stands on its own but I do recommend that readers pick up the first book when they can.
"Live by Night" will be compared by many to the "Godfather" story as it is not a mystery like Lehane usually writes. It is a sprawling saga about a petty criminal who happens to be the son of the Assistant Chief Superintendent of the Boston police department. Joe Coughlin has chosen a path unlike his father Thomas or his brother Danny who also was a member of the police department. Though his family are not major characters, nevertheless their mark is left on Joe for his entire life.
He works for one of the crime bosses in the era of Prohibition and finds himself dealing with various crime syndicate characters as he tries to work himself up the ladder of success by various illegal dealings.
Joe is a fascinating lead because the path he has chosen for himself is often at odds with his beliefs however as the story evolves, he becomes more infamous and conflicted living in a world of violence. Even when he falls in love, it is due more to his criminal connections than his trying to find romance in normal places
The story shifts from the streets of Boston to a prison in Massachusetts to the Ybor section of Tampa as Coughlin maneuvers his way through violent confrontations, graphic deaths, political machinations, crooked cops, Cuban refugees and rum running all the way to a heart stopping conclusion.
This is a book to be absorbed slowly and carefully as Lehane has written a colorful and complex cast of characters who often disappear at some point in the story only to resurface at critical points later in the book.
Loyalties are made and broken, partnerships are negotiated in both legal and illegal ways and often end in brutal fashion. Some of the violence in this book is tough to deal with but it all makes sense in the world that surrounds the society and dealings of the USA in the mid 20's to early 30's timeline.
How Coughlin works his way to the top of the crime world and finds true love makes for a fascinating tale. How he changes his personality yet retains his humanity is beautifully described by Lehane. The history of Prohibition as well as the evolution of Cuba and it's ties to Florida will provide excellent education to the reader.
Lehane is famous for a series of novels featuring the private eye duo of Kenzie and Gennaro including "Gone Baby Gone" among others. He also has written a number of stand alone mysteries including the amazing "Shutter Island" which has one of the most stunning endings ever written.
This new book like the first book in the trilogy is a major departure for him and it is a good one. Readers expecting a mystery may be disappointed but they need to slowly dip into this chronicle. Loads of thrills, tension, excitement and surprises await a dedicated reader. And at the end, I along with others will be looking forward to the final part of this gripping trilogy.
This book has already had film rights sold and it will undoubtedly could be excellent but will have a tough time living up to the novel. Read this!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 8, 2012 7:53:21 AM PDT
E. Baxter says:
Great review. I wanted to pick this one up on the Vine but they were gone, baby, gone. I didn't know The Given Day and Live By Night were part of a trilogy. Do you have any more information on this? Also, how does the violence here compare to stuff in the Kenzie/Genarro series or Coronado Stories? I love his dialog and characterizations but sometimes the violence is just too much so I'm on the fence about this one. Thanks.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 8, 2012 11:06:58 AM PDT
Thanks for your comments. As far as the trilogy goes, this story involves the younger brother of the family. He and his brother and Father were also in the first story. If you haven't read "The Given Day", you will still enjoy this book since it can stand alone though I loved the first book as well. Both take times in different eras of the early 1900's and the plot lines are vastly different.
The violence in "Live By Night" can be pretty rough (I haven't read the Coronado stories but I have read the Kenzie/Gennarro series along with Shutter Island) but most of this book is the human story of the transformation of the lead character from small time crook to big time criminal. I fear the violence is part of the moving force of the book that must be told.
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