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All of a sudden, Dennis Lehane has become a major figure in my literary year. I last week finished reading Gone, Baby, Gone, the latest in his crime series starring the private eye team of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. After a few volumes of travails, the two are now live-together partners, though their office is still the abandoned belfry of St. Bartholomew’s church, Patrick’s former residence, in a seamy Boston neighborhood. In addition to a customary array of nobody-does-it-better fascinating characters and events of a crime novel, Lehane carries us into some disturbing moral questions involving child abuse and parental rights. How could there be moral questions about child abuse? Isn’t it just plain wrong and take the kid to safety and lock the bastards up? Well, maybe so, but maybe not, not exactly, not all the time. Maybe.

The movie of Gone, Baby, Gone opens this weekend, and according to a couple of the reviews I’ve scanned, it’s good and it treats the morals of the situation with enough ambiguity to send you out of the theater with questions, which means the film must have done that rare thing–caught the essence of the book.

On a pure storytelling level, the novel does a fascinating job of pulling you deeper and deeper into its world. You think things are as settled as they’re going to get. The only ways you know there might be more to come is that there are still quite a few pages left and that the story still hasn’t managed to wind its way back to the fascinating prologue. Then you turn the page and there’s a new character or a new angle to an old event. This happens at least three times before things wind up. Or they don’t exactly wind up. You reach the last page, turn it, and there’s nothing more. Yet. Leave ‘em wanting more, as the show biz adage goes. And Dennis does do that.

Lehane is premiering a play in San Francisco early next year. We have tickets. Can’t wait. That’ll make a trifecta for me and Lehane–novel, movie, play–within a few months. Don’t think it’s ever happened before. Life is good.


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