Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Drink Before The War - Book Review

As I mentioned, I thought I might fill in the Dennis Lehane books I haven't read so why not start with the first?

The first book in a series is always interesting - the writer is just beginning and seems to be trying to hard and too earnestly where later in the series he's in full, confident stride. Lehane is no different here - there are glimpses and glimmers of what may be great things to come but for now the characters seem kind've gimmicky. Come on: an office in the bell tower of a church? (Yeah, yeah, there's a reasonable explanation for it. Okay, the explanation isn't reasonable. Never mind. It's a gimmick.)

Lehane's liberal political leanings are at full sail here. The central problem. Racism, of course. You know, if it wasn't for the racism of the white characters, the black characters wouldn't act the way they do. There's also a lot of class hooey - did you know poor people are inherently good because they're poor? Yep. Same reason why rich people are inherently evil. It's a law of nature. This kind of thing is surprising, too, since the book was published in 1994. The 60s were 24 years gone but the eras radical values still echo for Lehane.

But what about the plot, the style, Lehane's skill with language and ratcheting up the suspense? Far-fetched, not bad, pretty good and not bad, in that order. So toss away the ridiculous plot and politics and gimmicks and you'd have a good start for a series. Presumably Lehane gets better because the series goes on for several more books before he tries his hand with other things. For now, though, this is an uninteresting start.

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