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Anything author Lehane writes is readable, but sometimes the commonalities are just a little too close. Witness Live By Night. Okay, so it's Boston and not Chicago , but it's the same spats-clad, Thompson machine gun-toting gangsters and their molls during the Prohibition Era, celebrated in past stories using the Untouchables mold. Dutch Shultz. Louis "Lepke" Buchalter. Murder, Inc. The Black Hand Society. Yeah, this ain't the Italian-based Mafia, but close enough to be a resignation point.

So, whatta we got:

Plot. OMG, it's an obsessed-by-luv story. BadButGood boy meets BadButWickedier girl. I'm with the protag's Dad on this one—other than she's easy to look at, what's the attraction? Of course she's the baddest guy's arm candy. And, of course, the baddest guy takes it out on both of them with murderous intentions that get thwarted so there's an actual story. The soundtrack would've been teary-lovely with struggling brass against the kettle-drum march-of-time.

Characters. The BadButGoodGuy plays to type. The BadButWickedier girl is more interesting, but not by much. Gangster kingpin has a nastier-‘cause-I-talk-quieter feel as if being played by a Brando-Spader-Oldman compilation. BadButGoodGuy's Dad is second tier, but the most interesting yet introduced. As deputy superintendent in the BPD, he's elegant, sharp, and corrupt, but surprisingly tractable. His “luck” speech (p.90-1) is the best preachin' so far.

 

“Every breath, son, is luck.” He opened his eyes and they were pink in the corners. “Achievement? Depends on luck---to be born in the right place at the right time and be of the right color. To live long enough to be in the right place at the right time to make one's fortune. Yes, yes, hard work and talent make up the difference. They are crucial, and you know I'd never argue different. But the foundation of all lives is luck. Good or bad. Luck is life and life is luck. And it's leaking from the moment it lands in your hand. Don't waste yours . . .”

 

Atmosphere. Boston . 1926. Yeah, we got it. Good job there Dennis. I can see those Cords an' Coles an' Essexes, gun-metal black and straining at 40 mph . I smell and taste the speakeasys, the flappers, the 4-story row houses. And I can feel that “bottomless addiction”(p.25) of attraction between the two star-crossed ones.

I loved author Lehane's six-or-so novels with Pat and Angie, the masterwork being the middle with Gone, Baby, Gone. I've also read and admired Shutter Island. Very sly plotting. He's a good Noir-Mate with Richard Price, I thought. Admittedly, I only spent a coupla hours and 92 pages with him this time, but Act One was enough for me on this outing.

Dead at 93 out of 401 pages.

 

text only © copyright 12/27/2014 by Larry Crawford

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