I have a really good friend called Abel, who is also a huge crime fiction fan and whose book recommendations I keep ignoring, systematically. But he puts up with it because I assure him I will eventually read the book he just shouted at me over Facebook I need to read as soon as possible. One of his recommendations was Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane at least 5 years ago if I remember well. So, a few months ago I decided to buy it, second-hand at Abebooks. Now I have read it, and finished it, and I will publically say it: Abel, you were right. It was my kind of book.
Gone, Baby, Gone is the fifth installment in the Kenzie and Genaro series by Dennis Lehane. If you have not heard about them, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Genaro are two private eyes in the most hard-boiled, traditional, and American way you can imagine, and they are amazing. If you want to do this right, as I should have, go and check the order of the books here before keeping on reading my review. Have decided to keep on reading? Fine. Then I have to tell you that Gone, Baby, Gone tells the story of the disappearance of six-year old Amanda McCready from her bedroom in Boston. No traces. No signs of struggle. Her mother? Watching TV with her best friend in the apartment next door. And the city of Boston is desperate to find little Amanda. When her uncle and aunt doubt the Boston’s Police Department’s ability to find the kid, they visit Kenzie and Genaro, who, after much talking, join the investigation as private, independent investigators.
If you were in Europe in the 2000’s Gone, Baby, Gone will probably ring a bell and bring up the summer of 2007, when four-year old Madeleine McCann vanished from her hotel room in Portugal. But, despite the similarities, life imitates art: Lehane’s novel came out in 1998, and the award-winning film adaptation by Ben Affleck was released in 2007. In both cases the premise is just perfect: a young kid vanishes without a trace, leaving her parents bereft and the whole country wondering ‘Where is she?’. Only, this time you will get into the story thanks to Patrick Kenzie’s first person narration, which, along with his close relationship to Boston PD shows the reader the official and private eye take on the search for Amanda.
The first thing you need to know is that I am not really a fan of American hard-boiled crime fiction, or I thought I was not. If my reading of Gone, Baby, Gone is representative of my tastes, then I am a fan, because I could not put the book down. I started this novel while I was reading The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood, but the book was so heavy, being a hardcover, that I needed something lighter to carry on my handbag. That is when I remembered by battered, second-hand paperback copy of Gone, Baby, Gone and when I made one of the best reading decisions in my life. The novel is definitely a page-turner, with an impeccable rhythm, and an even distribution of the detecting narration.
The second thing you need to know is that I loved Gone, Baby, Gone because of the many questions that it posts to the reader. Who is a good mother and who is not? Who gets to decide? When are children safe and when are they not nowadays? Furthermore, who allows us to ask this questions? Lehane makes a great effort to show the reading audience the many different points of view that can arise from such a complex and terrific situation as the disappearance of a child, even though the first-person narration makes legitimate and true Kenzie’s point of view. This is the part of the book I had trouble with. This, and the ending. The only two things that stopped me from giving the novel a five-star review at Goodreads.
So, I would recommend Gone, Baby, Gone to anyone looking for a good thriller, even though I feel obliged to post a disclaimer here that the novel has more than enough good reasons to be called ‘hard-boiled, modern noir’, and there are some crude scenes including extreme violence and detailed descriptions of corpses that will only be fit for the bravest contemporary crime fiction fans.