Part mystery, part character study and part thriller, A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane is a frantic page-turner that will keep you enthralled to the end ó and maybe even teach you something in the process.
A Drink Before the War is the story of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, private investigators who have been hired by a politician to find some missing documents believed to have been stolen by a cleaning lady. Their job is to find the cleaning lady (who has gone missing), recover the documents and return them to the politician. Although it sounds like a pretty cut-and-dried case, things start getting complicated when the cleaning lady is located and she lets the PIs in on a secret that starts up one of the bloodiest gang wars that the Boston area has ever seen.
Before they know it, Patrick and Angie are right in the middle of the action, and both of the rival gangs want them dead. To complicate matters, Patrick is still trying to come to terms with the ghost of his abusive father, and Angie goes home every night to a husband who has a tendency to leave her with black eyes and bloody lips. Over the course of the novel, Patrick and Angie must find a way to defeat their personal demons while desperately searching for a way out of the death sentence they seem to be facing.
A Drink Before the War is a taut, well-paced thriller that not only features an excellent and thought-provoking plot, but also interesting and deep characters. Itís no wonder that Lehane has gone on to write more novels featuring Patrick and Angie. They are certainly two of the best protagonists featured in a current mystery series.
Lehane stumbles in only a couple of places. His prose tends to get preachy in a few places, something that he could have gotten away with if one of his characters was giving the speeches, but that seems a bit patronizing since itís coming straight from the author. Kenzie also seems a bit too flip in portions of the novel, especially when heís faced with mortal danger. However, neither of these drawbacks are nearly enough to make this anything less than a great read. Lehaneís novels are popular for a reason, and you can expect him and his excellent characters to be around for quite some time.