Friday, November 9, 2012

Live by Night

by Dennis Lehane
402 pgs  (Joe Coughlin series #2)

With Live by Night Dennis Lehane adds justification to my opinion that he's one of the best writers alive today. His books are usually gritty, and the characters are almost always significantly flawed, but there's still an underlying beauty to the stories he tells. He creates protagonists that are just as amoral as his antagonists are, but he's able to create them in such a way that you can't help but feel sympathy and even empathy towards them.

Live by Night is the story of Joe Coughlin. A man who grew up in Boston during Prohibition. He's the son of the city's police captain, who instead of following in his father's footsteps, chose to "live by the rules of the night," and the more exciting life of a criminal. As a young man he began working as a petty thief for the mobsters that ran the city and was eventually handpicked to run the mob's operations in Florida.

In Florida Joe builds an empire, becoming the sole supplier of rum throughout the entire southeast portion of the country. But as his power grows, and while he ruthlessly eliminates all who stand in his way, he also demonstrates that he's not without a moral code that keeps him relatable and even endears him to the reader.

I don't know if there's another author who who could pull off what Lehane does in this book. Throughout the story I couldn't help but like and care about Joe Coughlin. In the real world I'd have had no sympathy for a person like that, but at every stage of Joe's life told about in the story, I cared about him. and I wanted him to succeed.

If you've never read one of his books, this is an excellent one to start with.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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