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Book Cover Image: Moonlight Mile by Dennis LehaneTitle: Moonlight Mile

Author: Dennis Lehane

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from a Boston neighborhood twelve years ago. Desperate pleas for help from the child’s aunt led investigators Kenzie and Gennaro to take on the case. The pair risked everything to find the young girl — only to orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and a broken home.

Now Amanda is sixteen — and gone again. A stellar student, brilliant but aloof, she seemed destined to escape her upbringing. Yet Amanda’s aunt is once more knocking on Patrick Kenzie’s door, fearing the worst for the little girl who has blossomed into a striking, clever young woman — a woman who hasn’t been seen in weeks.

Haunted by their consciences, Kenzie and Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most. Their search leads them into a world of identity thieves, methamphetamine dealers, a mentally unstable crime boss and his equally demented wife, a priceless, thousand-year-old cross, and a happily homicidal Russian gangster. It’s a world in which motives and allegiances constantly shift and mistakes are fatal.

In their desperate fight to confront the past and find Amanda McCready, Kenzie and Gennaro will be forced to question if it’s possible to do the wrong thing and still be right or to do the right thing and still be wrong. As they face an evil that goes beyond broken families and broken dreams, they discover that the sins of yesterday don’t always stay buried and the crimes of today could end their lives.”

Thoughts: Moonlight Mile is my first foray into Dennis Lehane’s repertoire, and I can now understand the attraction. Dark and gritty, he excels at presenting life in the darker, more illicit levels of society. His use of a moral morass to propel the story is as realistic as it is compelling. The end result is a story that produces as many questions as it does answers while it forces the reader to consider one’s own moral code.

Dark and somewhat depressing, Moonlight Mile opens onto a situation where nothing is as it seems. There are tantalizing hints of the truth that entice the reader to continue the story. The moral ambiguity of certain scenarios, however, is what truly drives the story. Mr. Lehane has the ability to make the reader an active participant of the story, requiring him or her to take sides on certain issues based on individual value systems. In the case of the Moonlight Mile, the question becomes just how closely should one follow the law? What should one do if the laws in place for protection actually do more harm than good? Is it okay to skirt those laws to protect the innocent?

Based on these key questions, Moonlight Mile is understandably condemnatory about the current legal system’s ability to protect citizens. Even Patrick, who remains adamant about taking the legal high ground and sticking to the letter of the law regardless of the long-term consequences when it comes to fulfilling his clients’ requests, has no problems skirting laws to reach his goals. The contradiction, at first, does not sit well with the reader; upon further thought, this contradiction does more to point out the flaws in the system than anything else.

If nothing else, Mr. Lehane gets one to think. He blurs the line between innocence and guilt while simultaneously positing the meaning and loss of innocence. Is anyone truly innocent? Is anyone truly guilty? Amanda and Sophie’s plights drive home this conundrum and leaves the reader haunted by the possible answers. There are no easy answers to the questions Mr. Lehane presents, yet it is precisely these questions and the thought process necessary to answer them that propel all readers to pay closer attention to the story and to one’s own values.

Moonlight Mile is so much more than a mystery yet does not quite cross the line at becoming a social commentary. Active participation on the part of the reader drives home the messages Lehane is trying to present and makes for a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. The questions raised by Mr. Lehane linger well after that last sentence. If this is how Mr. Lehane’s other novels are, then it is no wonder he is as popular as he is. This also means I need to check out more of his works!

Thank you to Shawn Nicholls from HarperCollins for my review copy!

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