Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane [9/10]

Dennis Lehane is a superb writer of both thrillers and mystery novels, but over the last decade or longer, has shifted into the screenplay world, to fine effect. His forays into fiction have impressed but not astounded and it took me a long time to get round to reading his latest, Small Mercies, simply because I feared dropping him from my panoply of favorite authors. My concern was misplaced. Small Mercies is a return to top form, both a jagged, violent revenge/justice thriller and an in-depth, character-based dissection of inner Boston in the mid 70s. The plot is simplicity itself—a downtrodden single mother, searching for her missing teenage daughter, begins to encroach on the activities of the neighborhood’s ruling Irish gang—but the chapter-by-chapter unfolding of the truth is anything but simplistic, twisting unexpectedly and often shockingly. All this amidst oppressive heat and the turmoil of a school desegregation push… The author pulls no punches and, showcasing Lehane’s superb plotting skills, the climax is both revelatory and inevitable. The author is a flowing stylist with a real ear for dialogue, and the pages of the book seem to turn themselves. Welcome back, Dennis Lehane!

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