Thursday, October 20, 2011

Just down the road

I like books in a series, I like following a beloved character through a series of adventures even if one (or more) of those adventures might involve a bit of a wrong turn ... a bit of a reading slog. Sometimes, though, I can't deny the satisfaction (and yes, relief) in knowing that I don't have to read any more about them. That's what I thought about Peter Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. It was Gone, Baby, Gone and they were ... gone. Until now ... when I think they are really gone. Yes, Dennis Lehane had one more book to write, Moonlight Mile. [grrr...] (Now I didn't read Gone, Baby, Gone until 12 years after it was published --in 2010 -- so my relief-turning-to-horror at having to pick up the Kenzie/Gennaro story again was relatively mild compared, I'm sure, to some readers.)

Twelve years ago, Peter and Angie -- private investigators and partners in life -- split up over the conclusion of a case of a kidnapped toddler. Peter insisted on returning the child, Amanda McCready, to her negligent, possibly criminal, mother; while Angie thought Amanda should remain with the loving couple who thought they knew better and had removed her from said mother. Peter and Angie reconciled, married and had a daughter of their own, Gabriella. Gabby is four, the same age Amanda was when she was taken. Peter is the family breadwinner and he has taken more than one investigation that rubs up against his moral compass. Angie is chafing at her role as stay-at-home mom. The family needs health insurance.

But when Amanda's aunt Bea calls them again, telling them that Amanda is missing again, Peter knows he's got to find her. In proper P.I. fashion, the case multiplies in complexity, involving drugs, gambling, identity theft, black-market babies, the Russian mob, and more than one set of misbegotten parents. Through it all, Peter retains his unflappable wit and sarcastic repartee -- even when his own family is threatened. Order is returned, and I'm pretty sure that Peter and Angie will not be returning again. But only pretty sure ...

The novel has an elegiac feel -- the economy sucks, fall is melting into winter, old wrongs must be righted, parenthood bring new priorities. But it also felt a little rushed, the characters seem flat, the villains are cartoons. And speaking of cartoons, Bubba -- the lovable psychopath -- is mostly offstage and when he's on, it's as if Lehane tried to crowbar him into the story. I mean, they put him in charge of hustling Gabby out of the story so Peter and Angie can kick butt. I think Lehane remained haunted by what he did to Amanda, so he had to work it out. And now that he's a wildly successful author, his publisher said, "Whatever you want!"

Which isn't to say that the audiobook isn't terrific. It is. It might be as good as the Lehane novel I listened to earlier this year. The narrator, Jonathan Davis, was a revelation. I listened to him read something else earlier this year and it was utterly unmemorable (or rather, memorable for the wrong reasons); I can't remember a thing about his narration. But here, he's amazing. First of all, he sounds completely, authentically white working class Boston as he reads Patrick's first-person narrative. It's unforced and consistent. Angie speaks similarly, but her delivery sounds female. Even Gabby's origins are clear, and Davis keeps her from becoming cute or cloying.

The Russian mobsters afford Davis the opportunity to flash some other accents. While they are pretty scary as mobsters go, the accents tend to make them somewhat comical. Still, Davis is consistent.

In addition to his command of a variety of accents and characters (there's a Boston Brahmin in there, some Latinos, a lesbian from Vermont and an annoying fitness guru among others), Davis sets the right tone for the novel. Patrick's quiet relating of the story is told in a reserved voice that leaves a listener in no doubt of how aware he is that he's turning the corner and moving on.

Discovering that Jonathan Davis was not the average audiobook reader I thought he was proves cautionary. I look back at a post about yet another book that I heard him read and I was somewhat complimentary. A successful narration really does mean that the reader is matched with the right material. Moonlight Mile is a good match.

[A cross from Belarus plays an important role in the novel. This Belarussian postage stamp depicts the Cross of Saint Euphrosyne. The image was provided by G. Komlew and was retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Narrated by Jonathan Davis
Recorded Books, 2010. 8:45

Finally all caught up! Ten books (86.5 hours) listened to in 30 days ... blogged in 10 days!!


Bob said...

I have also had mixed results with Davis as a narrator, somethings I love him in, others he is horribly miscast.

I am quite excited that Harper released all the back list of this series. I plan to listen to the whole series eventually, so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one, and that Davis worked as a narrator.

dog eared copy said...

I just listened to the first-in-series, A Drink Before the War; and I had very mixed feelings about the narration. I liked his light, almost Ben Affleckian accent for Patrick Kenzie; but his other character work suffered from a lack of an ear for the cadence and idiom. I heard him in another book, The Oxford Murders (by Guillermo Martinez) and, there too, his staid delivery kinda underwhelmed me. I'm very much on the fence about pursuing the Kenzie/Gennaro series in audio; but one way or another, I'm definitely going to read more Lehane :-)