Live by Night, the latest crimetastic offering from Dennis Lehane is set in the Prohibition era Boston, of the roaring ’20’s where the booze flows the bullets fly, and cocky fast talking Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain is about to break big in the world of crime.
We have met the Couglin crew before of course Crimeziners, in Lehane’s epic 2008 historical novel Given Day where the focus was on Joe’s older brother Danny and his trajectory through the turbulent post WWI world of the Boston Badlands.
This time out, Lehane has narrowed down the story into a tale of straight shooting noir at its most Cagneyesque. This novel is as tight and feverishly paced as you would perhaps expect from a crime writer of Lehane’s stature and although Danny and Poppa Coughlin make an appearance this is strictly Joe’s story.
Bad boy Joe, is a smart and likeable young sociopath, who falls for femme fatale Emma Gould, a girl with the eyes of very cold gin. But oh-dear, wouldn’t you know it, saucy Emma is the mistress of a ruthless gang boss. You just know there are going to be tears before bedtime Crimeziners. Unperturbed, young Joe quickly graduates from his childhood of petty theft and breaks off down hill, towards a life of outlaw notoriety. But Joe quickly finds out that life on the dark side carries a heavy price
Inevitably Joe takes a trip to the big house, where he meets an aging mob boss who hooks up our young hero with a post release position as the mobs main man in Tampa Florida.
In the Sunshine State, we follow Joe’s Journey up the dizzying ladder of organized crime, where we meet a thoroughly unwholesome selection of individuals: ruthless men of ambition, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream.
Stylistically, Lehane is one of the most compulsive and readable writers of any genre around today. His work has a vigorous, poetic quality, packed with nuanced dialogue and ribald characters. Attention to detail? You got it, Lehane is a retro detail freak and history buff. This guy is gloriously and sumptuously readable.
Live by Night is a sweeping love story and a compelling saga of revenge, that brings to life a bygone era when sin was cause for celebration and vice was a national virtue. Buy it today Crimeziners. Tell’ em Crimezine sent ya.