Another post that has been sitting around unfinished for a while; finally got around to putting at least some kind of closure on it.
Dennis Lehane, Sacred
A hard-boiled crime novel this time (yay for variety), the third volume in Dennis Lehane’s series about Boston-based private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. I’m a bit anal about things like this (okay, so maybe a few other things, too), so even though it was Mystic River (and the movie Clint Eastwood based on it) that brought him to my attention, I’m making my way through Dennis Lehane’s oeuvre in order of publication. I greatly enjoyed reading his first two novels, and liked Sacred, too, even though it proved to be a bit of a disappointment when compared to the earlier ones.
While Sacred also has some of the depiction of the dark underbelly of Boston (which before reading Lehane I was not even aware it had), it is far less concerned with which for lack of a better term I’ll call existential concerns than the previous ones; it actually has to refer the previous book a lot for that (and this is one of the things I like about this series, that the characters are and stay marked by their experiences, and that Lehane takes the risk of actually having them change), while Sacred seems much more interested in playing games with the hard boiled thriller form. With the first two novels, one had the impression that they were trying to get something across – not necessarily something as simplistic as a message (in fact, they were far too complex to be distilled down into a moral), but a certain urgency, a sense that they were dealing with things that were not confined to fiction, but had the weight and impact of life. Which is not to say that they were realistic in any reductionist sense of holding a mirror up to reality, it is a matter of a texture rather than content.
As a result of this, both A Drink Before the War and Darkness, Take My Hand were very bleak and dark novels, and Sacred in comparison seems almost light-hearted and sunny (and not just because its protagonists take a trip to Florida as the plot unfolds). While the subject matter is not exactly cheery, the mostly metafictional attitude of the narration makes for a lighter tone – when you’re busy hunting for genre-references the suffering depicted as well as the grief the novel purports to be about tend to have not as much of an impact.
Which is not to say that Sacred is not a good read – my problem with it is rather that it is too much of one. There is certainly nothing wrong with some nice, escapist reading, and this blog shows that I’m indulging in that rather frequently myself, but after the first two novels, I’d come to expect more of Dennis Lehane, and, as stated above, compared to those Sacred is a bit of a letdown. Still an enjoyable read though, and I’ll be sure to read his subsequent novels as well.