Live By Night
Hardcover: 416 pages
11 Oct 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown
With books the weight of Gone Baby, Gone, Shutter Island and Mystic River safely tucked away in his stable, the pressure on Dennis Lehane to continuously produce books that mesmerise their readers must be pretty intense. However, with that said and having read his tenth novel, Live By Night, nobody would know as Lehane has once again delivered the consummate ganster epic that will have all those who pick it up both itching to reach its end and, also, dread the moment the final page arrives.
Joe Coughlin is nineteen when he meets Emma Gould. A smalltime thief in 1920s Boston, he is told to cuff her while his accomplices raid the casino she works for. But Joe falls in love with Emma - and his life changes for ever.
That meeting is the beginning of Joe's journey to becoming one of the nation's most feared and respected gangsters. It is a journey beset by violence, double-crossing, drama and pain. And it is a journey into the soul of prohibition-era America.
It is Lehane’s grip o the atmosphere of the period that stands out; the sights, the sounds, the scents – both of the cities and the fear and hope of their crowds – that linger well after the novel is done, all of which is strengthened by the three-dimensional quality of his characters both major and minor.
It is also the fact that Lehane never labours his plots with unnecessary devices that often serve merely to “pad” novels out. Everything in Live By Night is relevant, important to the telling of such a well rounded, highly polished story ones hair can almost be combed in it.
Comparisons will, inevitably, be made to the superb Boardwalk Empire which is currently being shown on Atlantic. Yet, in truth – other than the period – there are no comparisons to be made, as Dennis Lehane has created world in which beneath the corruption and violence lies hope, faith, love and simple loyalty that is rich in texture, deep in understanding and broad in its all encompassing ability to grip from start to finish.
An extraordinary novel, from a quite extraordinary author.
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