Monday, June 19, 2006

A Look at the Nightstand

No. No, I have not read those last 50 pages of Quicksilver. I might. Some day. But, as of now, it sits on the shelf. And even if those 50 pages get read, the book will have defeated me, since I no longer have nay stomach for tackling the second two books in the Baroque Cycle trilogy. I bow to you, Quicksilver. You are better than I.

Darkness, Take My Hand and Sacred - Before Mystic River made him kind of famous and acclaimed, Dennis Lehane wrote a series of detective fiction novels featuring a pair of private eyes as its protagonists - Angie Gennaro and Patrick Kensie - that made similar good use of Boston and its sociological history and present for a setting. These are the second and third books in the series. I read the first one a year or so ago and liked it a lot, and kept meaning to get to the rest , but for one reason or another never did. I'm glad I finally did. What I like most about this series is that what, at first blush, seem like typical series-staples that will be present throughout the books, as unchanging as James Bond, are actually important character points that, eventually, change and resolve. The relationship between Lehane's detectives, especially, seemed in the first book doomed for the kind of never-ending light sexual tension that can get old pretty quickly. But instead, their story has actually moved in these three books, and to some surprising places. Also, I like that Lehane introduces real, harmful violence into his detectives lives without papering over the effects. These detectives are changed by what happens to them, especially in Darkness, Take My hand, and there's none of that "resetting the clock" that one often encounters at the beginning of new books in series like this. This is a detective series that should be read in order, and I get the sense that in this genre that's not always the case.

Of course, as great as this stuff is, it doesn't exactly hurt that Lehane can write a crackling, real-feeling mystery. The series' weakness so far is an over-reliance on super-heroic, kind of fanciful supporting characters who seem to exist primarily to get our heroes out of seemingly insurmountable jams. Lehane's favorite of these, and a character he probably overuses, is the mountainous, psychotic, but (and I bet you knew it was coming), lovable Bubba, who has a thing for torture, a real skill for violence, and a singular devotion to occur heroes. Still--this is a series well-worth checking out.

Until Whenever

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