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Live by Night: (Coughlin, Book 2) (Joe Coughlin Series) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 2, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2012: The story might sound a bit familiar: A cop’s son falls in with bad guys and becomes one. But in Lehane’s hands, the Prohibition-era tale of Joe Coughlin’s rise to criminal power is both fresh and nuanced, packed with guns, booze, and babes as it roars from Boston to Tampa to Cuba. As Coughlin crosses deeper into the dark side--among those who “live by night and dance fast”--he provokes the question that sustains this propulsive narrative: Can a man be a good mobster and a good person at the same time? Incredibly, Lehane, who becomes more masterful with each book, has us rooting for Coughlin even as he slowly becomes the kind of monster mobster he once reviled and rebelled against. --Neal Thompson
“LIVE BY NIGHT transcends the familiar and assumes an unimpeachable reality of its own. . . . [A] meticulously crafted portrait of our violent national past.” (Washington Post Book World)
“Lehane’s novel carves its own unique place in the Prohibition landscape. . . . This is an utterly magnetic novel on every level, a reimagining of the great themes of popular fiction—crime, family, passion, betrayal—set against an exquisitely rendered historical backdrop.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Masterful. . . . Lehane has created a mature, quintessentially American story that will appeal to readers of literary and crime fiction alike.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“LIVE BY NIGHT is Crime Noir 101, as taught by the best of its current practitioners. . . . A sentence-by-sentence pleasure. You are in the hands of an expert. And you’ll know it.” (Janet Maslin, New York Times)
Amazon's editors selected this title as one of our Best Books of the Month. See our current Editors' Picks.
Top customer reviews
The central proposition the book explores is whether bad money can lead to good; whether crime and violence can be whitewashed or redeemed. It also takes a look at religious morality versus practical morality. Joe is in many respects an honorable man in a dishonorable trade. He doesn't trade in violence for its own sake but is forced to resort to horrific violence periodically in order to survive. He is loyal to his friends and generous to his enemies. He is untainted by the racism of his era. He is not especially greedy in a world where everyone is greedy. He is, in the author's depiction, a fundamentally good man in a rotten world. And of course, this position is untenable and an awful price has to be extracted.
I must say I found this book less compelling than some of Lehane's wonderful moral tales set in the hard world of South Boston. There were periods when nothing much happens and the narrative tension slackens. The characters don't snap to life, especially the villains who are not sufficiently villainous. Joe's lover is also two-dimensional. The history was kind of interesting but the setting lacked the immediacy of Lehane's contemporary novels. And I thought the book lost momentum when the scene switched from Boston to Florida -- as if the blazing sun bleached and sapped the narrative strength. That said, it was still an interesting read.
It took me awhile to engage with the book - like way more than I am used to - but I have to say once I got into it, i was completely hooked. Bottom line is that I recommend it. However, I would encourage anyone new to Lehane to start with "The Given Day", "Mystic River", "Shutter Island", "Since We Fell", "The Drop" first. It has been many years but I enjoyed his private detective series too. Especially "Moonlight Mile".
Others will no doubt write about plot specifics. I will not because I do not want to spoil the read for people who buy the book. I do agree with those who compare if to the Godfather book. There are some differences because Coughlin is obviously not Italian and his father is a cop. But Lahane develops a great story based on Coughlin's life starting as a petty criminal and going on from there.
A morality tale at heart, Dennis Lehane's style of short sentences and gritty dialog works well to tell this story.
Outside of one cliff-hanger "miracle", a lot of this feels like everyone in it is caught up in a juggernaut of fate. I mean this in a good way - the outcomes of actions make sense, actions and motivations are clear and understandable (at least after they occur), and people may grow up a little, but they don't fundamentally change.
It is hard to imagine that this won't become a movie or new HBO mini-series - it has everything it needs to be a hit.
Most recent customer reviews
Joe is a true bad guy hero much like Michael
The relationship between Gabriella and Joe is intoxicatingly good! The next sequel is now on my to read list.