Best-selling author Dennis
Lehane delivers another satisfying crime thriller in Live
by Night, an examination of one man’s gradual transition
from common outlaw to monstrous mobster. As with his recent
Drop, which became a major motion picture in 2014,
this book also has a cinematic adaptation – due in theaters
in January 2017.
In this new novel, Joe Coughlin comes of age during the Prohibition
era in Boston, Massachusetts. Beginning with his impending
death by rival gangsters, the story says his problems all
started because of his involvement with a woman and flashes
back in time to tell his tale. The youngest son of a crooked
policeman, Joe begins his life of crime early by stealing
from local newspaper stands with his friends. His transgressions
escalate over the years and before he’s even 21, he’s
been charged and convicted with a robbery that led to the
deaths of three police officers, and has lost the big love
of his life – a gangster’s moll who set him up
to be captured.
After his release from prison, Joe heads for Tampa, Florida,
to head a group of mobsters who want to control the local
crime syndicate that runs the city’s gun and liquor
trade. Despite his aversion to heat, Joe relishes this assignment
as it gives him the opportunity to strike back at his old
rival. A new romance comes into his life, but something in
his soul dies. Proud of his status as an outlaw for so many
years, he slowly comes to accept he’s now a gangster
– someone who kills without remorse to get what he wants
– whether it’s money, revenge, or something else.
Told in three chronological parts with crisp, clear writing,
the story contains lots of graphic violence, but also examines
Joe’s ever-changing morality. He’s not an inherently
mean or vicious person; he’s merely someone who lives
by night. A self-educated man of high intellect, he couldn’t
stand a day job and traditional family life. Joes craves the
excitement of planning and executing dangerous assignments
with increasingly high stakes.
While this book succeeds as a thrilling crime novel, it also
excels as a character study with well-developed, multi-faceted
people who are heroes, villains, and something in between,
depending upon the circumstances.
Leslie C. Halpern is the author of Passionate About
Their Work: 151 Celebrities, Artists, and Experts on Creativity,
Rub, Scrub, Clean the Tub: Funny Children's Poems About
Self-Image, and Shakes, Cakes, Frosted Flakes: Funny
Children's Poems About Table Manners.