Gone Baby Gone Dennis Lehane writes satisfyingly complex and disturbingly violent crime fiction that often crosses into thriller territory. These are not, however, cheap thrills. Even in their goriest moments, his books are grounded in rich, real-life detail. Lehane knows Boston and its denizens, and he captures the city’s subcultures beautifully — from the hushed refinement of the old-money suburbs to the grittiness of tacky motels and bail-bond agencies. He has a unique way of presenting his mysteries with an edge-of-the-seat feeling, yet his descriptive methods brings one into his neighborhoods and gives one the feeling that they lived there their entire life.
His main characters, private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, transcend crime fiction stereotypes. At first glance, Kenzie is a classic hard-boiled detective, an idealistic man who feels trapped and angry – perhaps because of emotional scars left by his brutal father. But he is no rootless loner. He still lives and works in the neighborhood (the Irish stronghold of Dorchester) where he grew up alongside Angie and Bubba Rogowski, their larger-than-life sidekick and hit man. Angie is practical, passionate and somewhat inscrutable. She’s tough and courageous in the pursuit of homicidal psychopaths and twisted minds.
But in her private life, she waffles. Angie has struggled for years to break free from an abusive marriage and has mixed feelings about her brief romantic relationship with Kenzie. Lehane has no background in police work or private investigation. His books are fiction in every sense of the word. They are set in an Irish neighborhood that no longer exists quite as he portrays it and his characters can wreak more violence in one chapter than the real city of Boston is likely to see in a year.
Most of these stories feature an evil mastermind whom Kenzie and Gennaro must outwit and overpower. That’s where Gone Baby Gone is different, they are looking for a child who’s disappeared without a trace, and none of the “usual suspects” did it. In this book it turns out that no one is what he or she appears to be and the good guys can do bad things with good intentions. Kenzie and Gennaro are hired to find four-year-old Amanda McCready. Amanda disappeared from her home three days before her aunt and uncle approached the detectives. Amanda’s mother, Helene, is a party “girl.” She loves to go out with men and her friends. She frequents bars, which is where she was when her daughter vanished. This was not the first time she had ever left Amanda home alone while she went out on the town.
Helene is also into drugs. In fact, all evidence leads back to a man in prison, Cheese Olamon. Cheese is a drug-dealer that Helene had done some work for in the past. Seems $200,000 is missing from one of Helene’s buys she went on for Cheese. 200 grand missing would make you mad, right? Would it make Cheese mad enough to take Amanda rather than take it out on Helene? The title of the book comes from a warning Cheese gives Patrick, “Without me, that girl will be gone.
Gone-gone. You understand? Gone, baby, gone.” (p. 239) Reading it, it makes you think Cheese has Amanda and is toying with our protagonists. But as Cheese says himself a little later, “Whatever you think happened, you’re not even in the ballpark. You guys are so offtrack, you might as well be in mother*censored*ing Greenland.
Okay?” (p. 241) And Cheese is right; all leads are drawing a dead-end. A year passes and Amanda stays gone, vanished, like she never existed. Another child is reported missing. Angie stayed obsessed with Amanda’s disappearance even though no new leads were given.
She pored over their case files; desperately searching for something they missed. This new disappearance restores Angie and Patrick’s vigor for finding Amanda. But are they any closer than they were a year ago? The end of the book finds the child, but far deeper questions arise. Gone Baby Gone makes you think about what is right and what is wrong. Lehane has his characters split: Patrick being practical, Angie being sentimental. They are forced to face the horrors adults can perpetuate on innocents but also their own conflicted feelings about what is best, and worst, when it comes to raising children.
Each characters’ point of view is understandable and leaves the reader filled with conflicting thoughts. It is the climax of the kidnapping story itself that destroys things. Not only does it destroy one of the books’ (and thus the series) underpinning relationships, it heaves a mighty moral question in your face: What if what is humanely right at one time ISN’T morally or legally right? Or vice versa? How do you make such a decision, and who has the right to make such a decision. Certainly not Patrick and Angie, but it’s a decision forced upon them and one that leaves them emotionally bereft. While the story grips you, the language sings.
Lehane peppers his dialogue with snappy repartee and sardonic comedy. Lehane use humor to lure the reader in and then smacks them across the face with a burst of surprising violence. The narrative voice of the book is that of Patrick Kenzie speaking in the first person. This draws the readers into Patrick’s situation and allows them to see things as he sees them and feel the action as he feels. As a detective Kenzie tries to be detached but in this book especially the reader can sense a mood of hopelessness in their search as well as the determination it takes to keep going.
Lehane sets the tone with a sad but practical introduction featuring statistics of lost children in America and the rates at which they are found. He creates a broader picture of life, and contrasts Kenzie’s and Gennaro’s perspectives as the search is reflected in the media and leaves its mark on everyone involved. Lehane’s novels are all dark in tone, his gallows humor the only light in a maze of corruption, greed, and murder. GBG is not his darkest work, which would be Darkness Take My Hand, but it is the most despondent. The ending is ambivalent and raises more questions than it answers. Book Reports.