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Live By Night by Dennis Lehane

June 10, 2016


This book revisits the Coughlin family from Lehane’s The Given Day. The story opens in the waters off Tampa, with Joe Coughlin’s feet in a bucket of drying cement, ready to be tossed overboard. It then flashes back to earlier in the 1920s, his time as a petty thief in Boston, his time in prison and his rise to become a top Prohibition-era gangster. The story has traces of the classic gangster story arc—The Godfather, Scarface, Boardwalk Empire, even Grand Theft Auto—but has enough surprises to keep it interesting.

Like The Given Day, the world-building is robust—Lehane obviously did his homework on the era. And like all of Lehane’s books (Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, Mystic River), the plot cooks and the writing sizzles. He’s my favorite crime writer today, and although he might not have the lengthy bibliography of Elmore Leonard, his writing is as good as Leonard’s (maybe better).

The movie for Live By Night is set to be released in 2017, and there’s a third book in the trilogy—World Gone By—which I’ll have to pick up as well. Good stuff all around.

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