Review: Dennis Lehane's 'Moonlight Mile'


Few of his contemporaries have Lehane’s near obsession with the telling detail (and getting them precisely right), and he’s also quietly emerging as one of the greatest writers about class and its consequences that America has produced in decades.

But its Lehane’s tough as nails characters (who are almost always more than usually flawed) that fascinates the actors who play them. They’re Irish in the best sense, in that they live, love and express themselves so vividly they could only really come from an Irish American stronghold like Dorchester in the first place.

By keeping his locations close to his Irish American home and staying close to his own origins, no matter how successful and rich he’s become (he has moonlighted on the writing staff of HBO’s The Wire, bringing his own brand of carefully observed local color to the show) Lehane stays true to the Irish American neighborhood where he was raised.

Lehane has also been more than usually lucky in working with a series of top flight directors who had enviable control of the final films, so he has never been subject to shooting by committee productions that can take even the most straightforward script and turn it into a three ring circus.

What’s also remarkable about Lehane’s books is that that they are as literary as they are thrilling. With his ear for dialogue and the telling line, Lehane’s new book blurs the boundary between thriller and novel to the point where the distinction becomes meaningless.  His characters are so vividly described that they almost leap to life in front of you.

But the thing that marks Moonlight Mile is the shivery darkness of the world that’s being described in it, and the tough moral maze his characters have to walk through. Their fears quickly become as real as your own as Lehane leads you toward his heart-stopping finale. Moonlight Mile is so deftly plotted that you won’t even see it coming. 

Less remarked on than his obvious gift for characterization is Lehane’s skill at drafting exciting, unpredictable plots.

Moonlight Mile turns into a white-knuckle thrill ride of a book, reeling you in from the first page and practically guaranteeing you’ll miss your subway stop all week.