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Gone, Baby, Gone

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lahane, the poet laureate of Boston's working class, is back with private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Initially they resist a missing child cases, but 80 hours have passed since her disappearance and not a single clue has … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Dennis Lehane
Publisher: Harpercollins
Date Published: December 30, 2009
1 review about Gone, Baby, Gone

Anybody Seen My Baby?

  • Oct 14, 2008
Pros: Challenges perceptions of morality

Cons: Ending may disturb happy ending suckers

The Bottom Line: Can you name the band who I stole the title of this review from?

The flap of Gone, Baby Gone contains a boast about how Lehane shatters the rules of mystery novels completely in it. Considering how great his last three novels about Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro were, I was expecting something really grand. But three-fourths of the way through, I wasn't seeing anything more than a standard Kenzie/Gennaro novel by Dennis Lehane. I was thinking about a four-star rating, or perhaps even a three-star rating just because Gone, Baby Gone was failing to live up to its own hype. But then..... BAM! Gone, Baby Gone left my ideas about detective novels challenged, and me in a lot of thought.

Gone, Baby Gone ends with a challenge to morality. Its main villain is not an unlikable character, and his justification for doing what he does is completely reasonable, relatable, and in fact downright worthy of approval. In this villain, we see someone whose good intentions simply can't be argued, although his methods certainly don't come without questions. Patrick Kenzie clearly thinks so too. When he writes his final statement at the end of the book - which has to do with his thoughts on his decision to do what he ends up doing - he does it with an air of melancholy, as if he's only writing it to reassure himself. Much of Kenzie's world and morals are damaged by the time you turn the last page.

In the beginning of Gone, Baby Gone, Patrick and Angela are once again a happy couple and their private detective business has been very successful lately. The cases aren't what you would call prime material - one woman hired them to track down her beloved pet lizard. Ordinarily this would be an embarrassment to any serious PI, but Patrick and Angela have seen so much of the dark side of the human psyche that they've been turning away cases which reek of that dark side of human nature. So they don't mind chasing lizards through golf courses. The happy times come to an end when a young girl, Amanda McCready, suddenly disappears without a trace. This isn't an ordinary disappearence - the girl completely vanished into thin air, and while Patrick and Angie don't want the case at first, some passionate pleas from Amanda's aunt Beatrice and uncle Lionel finally wear them down.

It looks like another find-and-a-phone-call case, but Amanda disappeared pretty completely. Furthermore, the media is involved, and her mother, Helene, is a complete flake. Helene makes a great grieving mother for the cameras, but that's about all she does. At one point, Patrick tells her outright that she's stupid. She only thinks clearly under intoxication. She's really not mother of the year material, but the camera loves her and she has the sympathy of the people. The prime suspect at first is a local crime boss named Cheese Olamon, who implies he might have had something to do with it, but when a ransom exchange goes wrong, there's clearly something more going on.

Patrick is still haunted by what happened in Darkness, Take My Hand, and in one fine passage he shows us just how deeply his mental scars from that case run. But something very clever which Dennis Lehane does is bring back the climax of A Drink Before the War, which at one point becomes a kind of bargaining chip. Although the young child present in the final scene of that book isn't a character in Gone, Baby Gone, his presence at the murder of the pimp in that book is cleverly worked in with clear consequences to the two main characters. Sacred isn't brought up much beyond a brief mention near the beginning.

Devin and Oscar and Bubba are all extremely minor characters, although at one point the villain angers Bubba by hitting him in the head with a lead pipe. Devin and Oscar are barely mentioned, and I was starting to think Lehane had decided to write them out of the series completely before they become prominent characters close to the very end. Devin and Oscar's parts through most of the book are occupied by two other police detectives, Poole and Broussard. Both are very likable and very integral to the story. The shift had to be made because These guys do things which are beyond Devin and Oscar's elements.

Patrick tells the story in his brilliant first-person viewpoint again, but something has clearly changed inside him. He comes off as more world-weary and dark. It doesn't make him any less human or any less likable. In fact, it reveals more of his own humanity. He's starting to let a kind of anger at the world show, and he's getting fed up. This shows in a scene with one of the other major villains of the story, in which Patrick draws his gun without any hesitation.

Gone, Baby Gone is probably the best book in the Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro series yet. I can see why they made a movie out of this one. I'm thinking I might go rent it soon.


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