Truck Reviews Beauty Best Books of the Month Men's slip on sneakers nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Weekly One Fire TV Stick Grocery Handmade Personalized Jewelry Shop by look Book a house cleaner for 2 or more hours on Amazon TheGrandTour TheGrandTour TheGrandTour  Echo Fire tablets: Designed for entertainment Kindle Paperwhite GNO Shop now Start your Baby Registry



on January 10, 2018
I read this novel when Dennis Lehane wrote it, and I was amazed at the gracefulness with which the story developed. I felt deeply for and cared for these characters, flawed and imperfect though they were, they were human, and the author presented them singularly, yet in tandem, as their lives ricocheted against each other in tragic ways. I shall not review the plot nor outline the story because it has been covered most succinctly in multiple reviews. I do wish to quote James Lee Burke, another excellent crime writer. As the guest author in The Week magazine in the January 12, 2018 edition, and invited to choose and review his six favorite novels, Mr. Burke’s words about Mystic River were: “ I believe this to be the best crime novel in the English language. The talent and craft in this fine novel are head-reeling. Many of the paragraphs are sonnets, and the characters, both good and evil, are among the best and most intriguing in American literature.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! I am about to read this book again, as Iwas so deftly reminded of how much I enjoyed it the first time.
2 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on September 17, 2012
I had read this book first, about ten years ago. Then I saw the film. As my reviews of both bear out, I thought they were remarkable and powerful. Then, this past spring, I was asked to teach a course on film adaptations from novels. This book, naturally, appeared on my syllabus. So, I had to reread it. I was, once again, taken in by Dennis Lehane's writing. I always am.

My class was quick to point out an unexplained problem with the solution to the crime. I won't mention it here, obviously, because it would spoil things. Anyway, the "problem" only occurred in hindsight: after we had discussed the book extensively. It occurred to me only after the rereading. In any event, I won't go into the details of the story or the characters. Those strengths have been mentioned by others here. I just want to make some comments on other reviewers--not Amazon reviewers, but professional book critics.

The book has been called anti-youth. It isn't, although the young people do exhibit some not very admirable characteristics. I read a review that said the book has racist elements. It doesn't: some characters do, but not the book. The book has been termed sexist. I don't know why; the men are portrayed as negatively as some of the women. The book has been called misanthropic.

Hmm.

Maybe the novel is not "misanthropic" in the classic definition. But Lehane certainly has difficulties finding anything redeemable in most human beings. His theorem about life, as I paraphrase a major character, Sean Devine, is that we are all born self-centered children, who become child-adults, who die after we have raised more child-adults. And then "The dead stay dead," he says. But the damage they did to--or was done to them by--other humans and by life, both linger but, then, are forgotten. Dave expresses his feelings of being alone, alien, forgotten.

This is a bleak enough view of life, enough to make you wish you were never born. And yet, Lehane makes you read on. The story pulls you along, but so does the painful beauty of the writing. When you put the book down, when you are done, I think you will exhale deeply, almost as if you had been punched in the gut with a very sad truth. When was the last time a book did that to you?
3 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on July 17, 2016
Three young friends, all destined to have completely different lives as they age, but forever linked. The murder of one of their children sets off a chain of events that brings the former childhood friends back together in ways none of them wanted. The eventual identity of the murderer comes as a complete surprise in this extremely well written, suspenseful mystery loaded with atmosphere and unforgettable characters. A masterpiece.
2 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on July 5, 2014
Lehane's writing is stellar as he has shown time and time again. Also as usual, his tale is gritty. Unlike other of his books however, in 'A Drink Before the War,' there were no surprises. With consummate skill, Lehane drew me into the ugly world of this story until I was completely engaged in reading - Indeed, so much so, that I have strong feelings about it and am challenged by reviewing it. The injustices (racial, abuses of power and wealth, infidelity, sordid victimizations, extortions and more) are rampant throughout, and Mackenzie and Gennaro (Lehane's central figures and private investigators, key in other of his books) prevail in a morass of dirty politics and gang warfare. My personal dilemma is that I'm troubled when a book (or film) causes me to accept - even root for - things that I know are wrong. I found myself rooting for vigilante justice as this book progressed. I can't hold Lehane responsible for that - It's another testament to his skill as an author. I even considered lowering this rating because of the feelings he elicited, but that would have been wrong - It's fiction... and I chose to read it. The man can write!!
2 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on August 2, 2013
Cataloguing Dennis Lehane as a "mystery writer" is, to me, sort of like classifying LeBron James as just a basketball player. Yes, Lehane writes books that have a mystery/thriller component to them, but, just as James's ability now defines the game of basketball, Lehane's ability goes far beyond a genre also. I would challenge all readers to undertake any of today's top names in the field (Patterson, Baldacci, Grisham...) and read their top works side by side with Lehane's and I'd wager that a marked literary difference would be not only immediately noticeable, but profound. The intriguing difference with Lehane, it seems to me, is that he encompasses the whole human experience with his novels. The characters have voice, depth and a priority in his works that the others in this genre clearly lack. And once he's firmly established these characters, the story then flows easily and with a believability uncommon in those others.

"Mystic River", although a little dated now (2001), is a classic example of this. Bypassing the well established pattern of other mystery/thriller works, Lehane, instead of immediately grabbing the reader with his storyline, slowly but efficiently introduces us to the people and environment. Centering essentially around three main characters, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus and Dave Boyle, we watch as our protagonists are developed before the first major "event" of the story ever ensues. Following them into adulthood, Lehane is brilliant with introducing and developing subordinate characters.

As kids, Dave, essentially the "weakest" of the three, is lured into what they all think is a police car when they are all out arguing in the street in their suburban Boston neighborhood. The car isn't a police car, of course, and Dave is actually abducted by pedophiles and suffers four days of brutality before escaping. Fast forwarding to the present day, all of them are adults with wives and families and we're witness now to a violent crime where Jimmy's daughter is brutally murdered. Sean, a State Trooper, is brought in to help solve the crime and the story is carried forward here in a nuanced three-pronged attack...Jimmy, not surprisingly an ex-con now, slowly builds a revenge response as his grief grows; Sean's duty is overlayed with his past while Dave's demons surface as he still battles the effects of that terrible four days.

What truly makes this novel stand out, however, is Lehane's ability to have the characters grow while the plot unfolds. Brilliant dialogue, believable outcomes, all cast in an environment of low-middle class Boston is a clear tone and backdrop throughout this work. Never is there any scene or conversation that deviates from this firmly established basis and Lehane carries all of these subplots to an almost obvious conclusion.

Again, having this work characterized as a "mystery/thriller" is only touching the surface. Dennis Lehane provides the reader with a true moral drama here and this book branches out into so many other literary fields that are masterfully grasped that it really should be undertaken by anyone who enjoys great writing. Please, do not judge this on category alone...this is a consummate literary experience and should be enjoyed by all. Highest recommendation.
One person found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on September 15, 2016
This book alternated between being plodding and sucking me in at various times. Overall, I found the characters and the story depressing. What this book does have going for it is incredible writing. The author has a fantastic way of turning a phrase and setting a scene. Even when the I felt the pace was slow and I wanted things to move ahead, the writing held me mesmerized. I figured out the killer halfway through the book but not the motive (which seemed a bit of a stretch to me).

I think one of my main issues with the story is that I couldn't connect with any of the characters, even the lead. They all felt remote, but maybe that's exactly what the author intended. I prefer books were I become emotionally invested in the lives of the characters, and that didn't happen with this novel.
7 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on November 25, 2016
PI's Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro fight the righteous battles of gang warfare and nasty politicians in Dorchester,s "Bury." Dennis Lehane builds great characters and places them in seemingly impossible situations. The action never stops. I read this one,even though it was written in 1994, because I want to read the PI series in order. I found one quote of great interest under present circumstances (2016) "If Donald Trump puked, Copley Place is probably what would hit the toilet." Love it!!!!
One person found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on December 29, 2013
I chose this book because of the reviews and the preview. They did not disappoint me. The writting is quick in wit and delivery. The idea that the entire plot spans 8 days is the exhausting part. The story develops so quickly that I was unable to put it down. I resented having to sleep. The book is violent. Drugs and gangs and private eye stories always are. This one did have some moral redemption. The bad guys got what they deserve. The good guys got to tell you why they were so jaded and none of it was pretty. The relationship between Patrick and Angie started out as friends at least on one side. The back stories of child abuse for Patrick and how it compells him to act beyond his contract was really gutsy. The relationship between Marion and Roland is degenerate and sad. Boston's crooked cops and irish mafia and politics are always good fodder for a story.This was my first Lahane book. I'll be back for more but I will have to take it in limited doses. Too much of a bad thing is not always good. If the author intent was to show the worst of the worst. He did an exellent job.The content was too much for me so I gave it a 4 star rather than the 5 that it has gotten from so many readers who enjoy this genre.
One person found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on December 12, 2013
Incredibly wordy, even for a character study of three interesting youths who grow into their late 30s. At least a hundred pages could be removed by deleting all mention of one character's marriage and its problems. Drop the needless dream sequences, and the remaining text of 400 pages would be engrossing and compelling -- and a much better read..
9 people found this helpful
|11 comment|Report abuse
on July 2, 2013
Dennis Lehane's first novel, "A Drink Before the War," introduces readers to detective agency partners Patrick Kenzie (the first person narrator) and Angie Gennaro, characters whose series of novels has now grown to six, and to Boston from the winding, wealthy streets of Beacon Hill to the slums of Dorchester, "Southie" and Roxbury. This bold effort takes on corruption, race, class, gang warfare and intra-family abuse in its story of powerful Massachusetts politicians who hire Patrick and Angie to recover documents stolen by a black cleaning lady who turns out to have close ties to two of the most powerful black gang leaders in Boston.

"A Drink Before the War" is definitely a first novel. Unlike the later Lehane novels I've read, it occasionally suffers from (mercifully brief) unimportant tangents, or trying too hard to be hip or insightful, but overall it's faced-paced, engrossing, and remarkably well-written. I love the way Lehane inserts telling cultural references, like the brief exchange between Patrick and Angie about Lou Reed's "New York" album, and assumes his readers are educated enough to know what he means when he mentions the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. Patrick and Angie aren't perfect, but they're good company, people you can imagine drinking beer and chatting with far into the night if they were real.
One person found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse