Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Crime & Beyond Book Club Reads Dennis Lehane

Kerry Hammond is here today with her report from the Denver-based Crime & Beyond book club. This time they are reading Dennis Lehane's Live By Night. 

Crime & Beyond met in June to discuss Live by Night by Dennis Lehane. If you’re a fan of this author you know that he writes many standalone novels  as well as a series featuring Kenzie & Gennaro. This book was kind of in-between those two. It followed the life of Joe Coughlin, whose family, and specifically his brother Danny, is featured in The Given Day. So you could call this book a sort-of a sequel to The Given Day.

Live by Night is more of a novel than a mystery, so if you fell in love with Lehane’s writing by reading Shutter Island, switch gears before you start. It’s a story about young Boston criminal, Joe Coughlin, working his way up through organized crime. It’s written with just as much skill as any of Lehane’s books, and I found myself caught up in the story, and Joe’s life, right away.

It all centers around Prohibition and the year is 1926. Fans of Mystery Playground know that the Prohibition period is a favorite here. We bloggers like to visit speakeasies and try new cocktails in the present day, but in Boston in 1926 things were quite different. The son of a Boston Police Captain doesn’t ensure that your kids run the straight and narrow and Joe’s beginning career consists mainly of petty theft. He will be the first to tell you, though, that he’s an outlaw, not a gangster. You also find out quite early that his father isn’t the upstanding citizen he makes himself out to be.

When Joe and his two friends rob the wrong man, it sets a series of events in motion that lead him to prison and a job with one of Boston’s most notorious mobsters. It’s clear that living a life of crime can pay well, but it’s also clear that you can never trust anyone. It’s a hard way to live, and you don’t always expect live long enough to grow old.

We had a great discussion of the book, which got a wide variety of reviews and comments. We all agreed that Dennis Lehane is a great writer who can tell a good story and write interesting characters. One of the most memorable things that stuck with us after we closed the book were the lessons and advice given to, and by, Joe. Some of them are listed here:

“The smallest mistake sometimes casts the longest shadow. When a house falls down, the first termite to bite into it is just as much to blame as the last.” –Tim, Joe’s first boss

“The people we service, they visit the night, But we live in it. They rent what we own.” -Tim

“The night. It’s got its own set of rules.” - Joe

“There are no rules but the ones a man makes for himself.” - Joe

Luckily none of us intend to embark on a life of crime, but you just never know when advice may come in handy. Next month we’re reading Ghostman by Roger Hobbs. This is a new to us author, so we’re looking forward to a great discussion.

You can read more entries from the Crime & Beyond book club here

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