Familiar footing in ‘The Given Day’
For “The Given Day,” author Dennis Lehane parts company with the day at hand and recurring characters to cover new territory that still will feel familiar.
Gone are Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, the long-standing detective duo at the center of five of his novels, ending with “Prayers for Rain” (1999). They were the principals in Lehane’s “Gone Baby Gone,” which Ben Affleck turned into an acclaimed movie. (The author also wrote “Mystic River,” the adaptation of which earned two of its actors Oscars earlier.)
In “The Given Day,” Lehane introduces two new main characters in Danny Coughlin, an Irish cop in Boston, and Luther Laurence, a laborer and baseball prodigy in Ohio. Other characters who circulate through Lehane’s postwar (that’s WWI, not II) Boston, however, will be much more familiar to even casual history buffs: A Justice Department lawyer who goes by the name John Hoover shows up in Boston, and a Baltimore Orioles slugger named George Herman Ruth is a recurring character.
Part of what propels “The Given Day” forward and makes it hard to put down – it was a seven-day-only book at the South Shore branch of the El Dorado County Library that I finished on the morning of the eighth – is trying to figure out when (and where, and why) the divergent paths of Danny and Luther might intersect.
Just as compelling is the breathless ripped-from-the-headlines feel: Odd, considering Lehane set “The Given Day” in 1918. Danny’s primary concern is hunting terrorist cells in the big city as Luther struggles to keep his head above water in a tanking economy at the end of a war that’s dragged on longer than anybody predicted at the beginning.
Gennaro and Kenzie may be gone, baby. But maybe Lehane’s fans will find familiar footing in “The Given Day.”
– Dan Thomas better figure out how to pronounce “Lehane” quickly, since he’s using a quote from “The Given Day” in a speech at an Irish – well, Irish-ish – wedding on Saturday.
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