Darkness Take My Hand


Dennis Lehane


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

April 15, 2004

hat a violent book this! Unrelentingly grim, full of portraits of psychopaths out to exact revenge. And simple murder is not revenge enough - for example, one of the victims is crucified. Torture and horror - is Boston really populated with such depraved characters? Perhaps my memory fails me, but I seem to recall that the first book in the series, A Drink Before the War, had some Raymond-Chandler-esque observations that are so appealing to this genre. But there is no levity in this book, just a race to stop a band of killers before they can strike again.

The race to catch the killer is what earns this book 3 stars - there are some creepy scenes where "the Bad Guy might already be in the house!" - it sounds cliche, but the scene is a real page turner. Lehane has done a nice job of portraying a few nice normal folks (our hero, Patrick Kenzie, has gotten himself a nice doctor/girlfriend with a sweet young daughter) but perhaps they appear in Patrick's life simply to be imperiled potential victims threatened by the bad guys.

One quibble with books like this: the bad guys are supercompetent. They are so smart and clever they can send photos to their next victims warning them of impending death. They can bug houses and don disguises. They can break into houses and leave eyeballs on top of a note warning: "I'm watching you". If I were a bad guy, I certainly wouldn't go about taunting the police and warning my intended victims. Why are villans so compelled to reveal their evil genius?

Not that the bad guys have cornered the market on super competence. Patrick has a friend name Bubba who is apparently invincible, insane, and loyal only to Patrick and Angie. What kind of lunatic places mines throughout the entrance to his residence, especially if the lunatic is known to down a couple of bottle of vodka (though vodka doesn't seem to have any effect) and might take a mis-step on occassion. A what police force would tolerate such a lunatic with his arsenal in their precinct? Cops got egos too, and they would be itching to capture a guy such as Bubba. But maybe not in Boston?

This book merits 3 stars, worth reading, because Lehane does a fine job painting portraits of his characters, even if they mostly scary creeps. (During Patrick Kenzie's encounter with Kevin Hurlihy I was thinking: "Shoot! Shoot! You gotta kill that guy before he comes after you and Grace). I hope the next book in the series has a little less violence and a few more hardboiled detective one-liners.