Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Live by Night
Dennis Lehane

William Morrow Paperbacks
12/ 2016/ ISBN 978-0062662422

Reviewed by Leslie C. Halpern


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 thriller, The 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.

Reviewer 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.
Reviewed 2017