Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie matures

“They were written from a young man’s perspective. I left Patrick when I was 33 and he was 33. I’ve tried, but his voice won’t come,” said Dennis Lehane in the USA Today interview just two short years ago, explaining why he didn’t anticipate writing another PI novel featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro.

People change.  Characters evolve.  Lucky for us that Lehane found a way to bring a new sensibility to his former series.  Some things haven’t changed.  Patrick and Angie are still very much in love.  They still hang out with Bubba Rogowski. Patrick’s still too honest, and not smooth enough, to ease through life by taking advantage of the offers that come his way.  And he’s still headstrong.

But it’s been 12 years since Gone, Baby, Gone was published and 12 years have gone by in the fictional Boston that Gennaro and Kenzie inhabit.  They’re married now, and have a four-year-old daughter.  From a financial perspective, they’re hanging on by the skin of their teeth.  Angie went back to school.  Patrick’s freelancing as an investigator, but has the promise of a permanent position… if he can only keep from calling the high-society clients “morons” and “assholes.”

And the young girl he recovered and returned to her mother in Gone, Baby, Gone, has grown up to be a hardened, smart, and too-wise for her years 16-year-old with big problems.   Did he do the right thing?  Yes, he’s sure of it.  Still, now that she’s disappeared again, perhaps he should let it go.  But that’s not his way. Angie, who remains convinced that Patrick did the wrong thing, sees it as his chance to make good.  So they’re on the same page.

A fast-paced read with well-developed and human, likable, and flawed characters, Moonlight Mile‘s maturity comes in large part from its focus on the nature of parenting.  What makes a good parent?   Amanda McCready’s kidnappers did time – and lots of it – for trying to keep her safe.  And the months she spent with them were the best months of Amanda’s young life.   Amanda has a meth-head mom and a felon stepdad, but are they as bad as her friend Sophie’s father, who kicked her out of the family home for not losing ten pounds in 40 days?  And what about the former doctor-turned-social worker who is running a baby mill for the Russian mob?  He only has to procure 525 babies for illegal adoptions and his debt is cancelled.   And what about Angie and Pat?  Is it enough to keep Gabriella safe by sending her off to Nona’s with Uncle Bubba?

Kenzie learns several valuable lessons in Moonlight Mile. One is that family comes first.

The second is that friendship can be found in unsuspected places. (Kenzie’s relationship with a Russian mobster could be the start of a pairing like Matt Scudder and Mick Ballou in Lawrence Block’s hard-boiled series.)

Third is that Patrick is clearly not the smartest person in the room.

And finally?  That if it’s hard, and it’s confusing, you’re not enjoying yourself, and you’re pretty sure that what you’re doing isn’t helping anybody, maybe you should stop doing it.

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