Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lehane's "Moonlight Mile" Revisits the Past

“I was a junior at Mount Holyoke when you found her the first time. I was obsessed with the case. I used to hurry back to my dorm to see the six o’clock news every night. We all thought she was dead, that whole long winter and into the spring.”

“I remember,” I said, wishing I didn’t.

“And then – wow – you found her. All those months later. And you brought her home.”

“And what’d you think?”

“About what you did?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You did the right thing,” she said.

“Oh.” I almost smiled in gratitude.

She met my eyes. “But you were still wrong.”

In “Gone, Baby, Gone,” private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro were hired to find 4-year old Amanda McCready, after she had disappeared from her Boston home. It became a case that neither one of them would forget, and a case that tore them apart. In uncovering the conspiracy that led to Amanda’s disappearance, Kenzie and Gennaro were faced with an impossible decision – should they follow their minds and bring Amanda home to a mother who was clearly unsuited to raise her, or follow their hearts and leave Amanda with a couple who had broken the law in order to save her from a wretched existence? Kenzie chose the former, and it cost him the love and partnership of Angie – at least for a time.

Before Dennis Lehane hit the big time with “Mystic River” and “Shutter Island,” he wrote four novels featuring the pair of Kenzie and Gennaro. They were all good, and all in a category that I would call “edgy,” meaning that happy endings were hard to find, and even those that were happy…well, they really weren’t.

Now, after a run of film success that must have had Lehane pinching himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming (Eastwood, Scorsese, and Ben Affleck directing the films of his books, with Affleck making a very, very good version of “Gone, Baby, Gone”), he has decided to return to Kenzie and Gennaro, and return them to the case that has haunted them to this day.

Amanda McCready, now 16, has disappeared again. Amanda’s aunt, who hired Patrick and Angie 12 years earlier, again approaches Patrick to take the case. He and Angie are now married, and are the parents of a four-year old girl – the same age Amanda was when she was kidnapped. He doesn’t want to take the case, but he knows he has to take the case. He’s looking for redemption and absolution at the same time – and neither one is easy to find.

Along the way, Patrick and Angie encounter Amanda’s dissolute mother Helene, whose parenting skills have not improved much in the 12 years since they’ve seen her, a family of memorable East European gangsters (including Yefim, who fills the role of charming sociopath quite nicely), and finally Amanda herself, who, as it turns out, has a trick or two up her sleeve.

It’s all very nicely done, and it provides Lehane the opportunity to give the couple who gave him his start what is likely their farewell in the sun. And, as with other authors who have returned to their original creations years later, it’s a gift to the fans. This one appreciates it a great deal.

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