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Showing 1-10 of 892 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,591 reviews
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.
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on June 4, 2014
I’ve recently found myself with more free tim. I figured that it was time to start reading some of those “I’ve been meaning to read…” books. Dennis Lehane has been on my “To Read” list for quite some time (after watching the movie version of Mystic River). Somehow or other, I managed to always find something different to read.

The other day, I was scrolling through my eBook library, saw “A Drink Before the War”, and decided that now was the time. One of the first things I do when I read a book that isn’t hot off the press is to check the copyright date. Knowing when a book was written before I start reading can help me keep things in context (i.e. what was going on in the world/culture, where we were technologically, etc.) In the case of this book, I’m glad I checked the copyright date.

This book was written in 1994. And, it feels like 1994 when you read it: talk of computer diskettes, cassette tapes in the car radio, and lack of cellphones. I don’t need a story to be up-to-date in order to enjoy it – I enjoy a lot of historical fiction, and, I suppose, twenty years ago counts as history. There’s something about the book, and I’m not quite sure what it is, but it feels more “dated” than “historical”.

The plot, which others have detailed, involves (among other things) racial tension in Boston, a city that in spite of its Yankee heritage was quite divided and very vocal about school integration/busing back in the 1970s. And, Boston (like every other big city) still has its racial tensions, especially in poorer areas where different racial groups live in their own communities. Poverty and racial issues are worthy topics of discussion, worthy to be included in novels, but it somehow seems to fall flat in Lehane’s book. The story of the gang war that breaks out after the murder of Jenna Angeline seems at first to be important to the story, yet somehow the issue recedes into the background. I almost felt that with the n-word used so many times that there would be a more powerful, societal element to the story, but, instead, it all just seems to be glossed over with an “is what it is, nothing can change” attitude.

Also, for some reason, I was expecting it to be more of a “whodunnit”, but it is more about the “why”, and then once the “why” is discovered, there’s just lots of running around and shooting.

Kenzie and Gennaro, flawed yet likeable enough heroes are easy enough to spend time with. Their flaws humanize them and make them more relatable – though, I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that I “liked” them.

For a first novel, it is pretty good. My only real complaint with the technical aspects of the story is that it gets bogged down in a few places. The novel grabbed me right from the start, but there were a few points where I was about ready to give up. In the end, I stuck with it, and while the ending didn’t seem overly surprising, it didn’t fall flat.

Overall, I’d say that I liked it well enough to read the next book in the series, though I don’t know that I will rush to read it anytime soon.
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on November 30, 2014
I have read and enjoyed later works by LeHane such as Mystic River. I had avoided this series because it seemed to me that it was dredging the romantic "dramedy" territory being that it was about a couple who were PIs. I have no desire to read, nor watch "Moonlighting, Bones, or any other of a dozen which are firmly entrenched in that genre.

I gave it a chance and was glad I did. Yes the two characters, though not together in this book are destined to be a couple but this is NOT a romantic comedy or "chick-lit". It IS Dennis LeHane, dirty, grimy, real. Good stuff and I will keep reading this series.
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on April 8, 2016
I’ve read several books by Dennis Lehane (the Coughlin series) and have quickly become a committed fan of his work and writing style. I’ve been working my way slowly and happily through his body of work and this is the first of his series of “Kenzie and Gennaro” detective stories. The “K and G” series includes the impressive “Gone, Baby, Gone” story which was made into an excellent movie (I’ve not yet read the book, I’m somewhat rigid about reading a series in order). Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro is a pair of long time Boston pals who have a detective agency partnership. In this first book, they are not a couple although they have a long history of semi-sexual tension. In this book Gennaro is in an abusive relationship and is working through that part of her life. Much of the best parts of the book are Kenzie and Gennaro struggling through how they feel about each other, how their pasts influence who they are today and how they grapple with risking the current structures of their lives for how things might be if they become a couple. Lehane does a masterful job of making each a real person and exploring who they are and why they do what they do. Lehane steers them through a case they take on knowing that it has a lot of hair on it. “K and G” have developed a reputation for being good at missing persons cases and they are asked by some political big wigs to find a missing cleaning woman. The case starts taking some twists and turns and “K and G” find themselves in the middle of a gang war and also mixed up in some political intrigue. Although aspects of the plot are a little difficult to swallow (you have to be able to believe the cleaning woman was once married to a man who is now a notorious gang lord and killer and that the pair parented a boy who is one as well). In addition, it is easy to sense that this is one of Lehane’s earlier novels. It is not as crisp as, for example, the Coughlin novels. But it is a good read and he’s a heck of a writer. It certainly is a decent entry point into what appears to be a good series. I certainly didn’t regret reading the book and I’m not pleased to have on my list of books to read the second in the “K and G” series.
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on February 4, 2005
They were three pre-adolescent chums in one of Boston's poorer neighborhoods in 1975. To call them friends might have been a stretch. Jimmy, the savviest of the three, suffered from what we might call today a conduct disorder. He engaged in risky behaviors that startled his two compadres and raised eyebrows of adults. Sean was brighter than the rest, though not smart enough to realize that Jimmy was stealing his prized items from right under his nose. Dave was what we would call today the nerd, struggling to prove himself worthy of the other two with poorly timed jokes and the other mannerisms of estrangement. They were a little pack, and if they had been animals instead of boys, the Discovery Channel would have commented on their strange interdependence for survival in the dangerous jungle.

But boys will be boys, and one day while scrapping in the street they are accosted by plain clothes detectives in an unmarked car who order them into the back seat for the perfunctory "scare `em good and call their parents" routine. Here we see the defining moment of their personalities. The pliant and thoroughly frightened Dave follows orders, but Jimmy and Sean could not help but notice that Boston's finest were looking a bit seedy that morning. Why, the back seat was littered with trash, for gosh sakes. It was as if the cops sized up the other two and vice versa, and both groups backed off with Dave alone in the back seat. Only later do Jimmy and Sean realize that they had let their erstwhile sidekick ride off into the unknown with hardened pedophiles. Dave would return four days later, to forever bear the invisible brand of damaged goods on his psyche.

Turn the clock ahead twenty five years, to a time when Pedro pitched every fifth day and Nomar anchored the Sox infield. The boys were now grizzled men. Dave had somehow married and survived his ordeal, on the surface at least. But he is not doing well professionally, and one senses that deep inside he carries the mark of Cain and the energy for a terrible day of reckoning. Sean had worked his way to detective rank on the Boston police force. Jimmy, not surprisingly, had taken the more sinister route. By the age of eighteen he was the acknowledged crime captain of his neighborhood, a poor man's Godfather. Married with an infant child, he had been pinched by the cops, kept his mouth shut, done the dime, and returned to his neighborhood in higher esteem than ever.

But now he wanted out of that business. His beloved wife had died, leaving him sole parent of a young girl who did not know him. Jimmy opened a legitimate concern and invested himself over the years in making a life for his beloved daughter, Katie. She had indeed grown into a fine young eighteen year old woman with enough of her father's spunk to occasionally do something stupid, like drink with her friends in a less than reputable neighborhood. It was on such an outing, the night before her niece's First Communion, that Katie's life would come to its tragic demise.

This grisly murder sparks a parallel investigation. Sean, of course, seeks the perpetrator as a matter of course. This, after all, is his life's avocation. The fact that the victim is the daughter of his old chum adds an emotional element, but Sean is all business. He is relentless, but he works in the civilized world of due process. His investigation is slow, painstaking, thorough, and in the context of what follows, not fast enough. He has a suspect in mind, but he works slowly and prudently enough that in case he is wrong, no harm and no foul.

Jimmy, alas, has no such encumbrances. He too seeks his daughter's killer. Coming out of retirement, so to speak, he has no worries about district attorneys and tainted evidence. Jimmy has a suspect in his sights, too. But even with his freedom of movement, he is having as much difficulty as Sean is until he receives damning information from about as unsuspecting an informant as one can imagine. In a scene worthy of a Hitchcock film, Jimmy hears what he wants to hear from a witness whose meaning is entirely misconstrued. Thus fortified, he becomes judge, jury, and executioner.

In the final tally, both Sean and Jimmy are wrong in their conclusions, though Sean has done nothing that can't be fixed. Jimmy, on the other hand, is responsible for multiple deaths, if one includes the psychological disarray of his informant. We say good bye to the neighborhood of Jimmy, Dave and Sean with the sense that Jimmy is dead, too. Dead to the years of decency when his Katie saved him from his worst criminal self. Jimmy, it is clear, bears no remorse. The worst may be yet to come.
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on May 1, 2017
The reader is held in mystery throughout the entirety of the novel. Each character is developed and involving to the point of being the main.. The interrelationships between them make for a delightful ending. A true five.
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on May 17, 2017
When Dave Boyle is abducted everyone thinks he's been killed but he comes home after four days changed.... How will this change affect the neighborhood as he becomes an adult? Amazing yet sad psychological thriller
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on January 26, 2015
The 6 book series that begins with A Drink Before the War are absolutely terrific. I loved reading them and I am so glad that I read them one after the other. You have to read these books in order. Let me repeat this. You have to read these 6 books in order or you will lose the gist of the story and the impact of the story. Read in order and one after the other, you get a terrific read. You get the whole story of their relationship. You get all of the feelings that come from their exploits. I would have been very disappointed had I not read them in order. So start the series and enjoy.
A word of warning. They are graphic. No sexual. But there is some real bad violence here. But it all makes sense in the story.
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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..
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on February 12, 2017
And dark. I like the characters, though. They are right for the battleground that Lehane presents and PIs with courage in spades - no pun intended. I recommend this series to readers who like those who win against the odds.
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