I was surprised as anybody that Lehane went back to the well and gave us another Kenzie and Gennaro PI novel. I figured he was going to make big, operatic period novels like The Given Day from here on out – basicallygo all James Ellroy on our asses. After burning through Moonlight Mile in just a few sittings (and I’m an insanely slow and careful reader so that shit rarely happens) I’m happy to say that hanging out with Pat and Angie was almost as much fun as I remembered it to be.
Moonlight Mile takes place around Christmas of 2010 with Pat Kenzie and Angela Gennaro married (it can be done, Janet Evanovich!) with a young daughter. While waiting to hear back on a permanent position as an investigator for a major security firm, Pat reluctantly takes on an old client, Bea McCready, the aunt of little Amanda McCready from Gone Baby Gone. Seems Amanda, now sixteen, has gone missing again, only this time out the cops could really give a shit. So it’s up to Pat to find her and, what’s more, face up to the stark aftereffects of the choice he made at the end of Gone Baby Gone.
Our heroes this time out are older and wiser than they were back in the nineties, their lives not ruled by their lust for chaos, violence, and street retribution so much as ruled by, you know, the daily headaches and joys of a marriage, a mortgage and kid-having. Angela stays stays home on weekdays and goes to night school in hopes of getting her Master’s. Class warrior Pat has been reduced to working for rich assholes whose money keeps them free from consequences. After a violent encounter, Pat finds that confrontation is more scary and less invigorating than he remembers. Indeed, Pat and Angela are decidedly grown-the-fuck-up.
The story is more adult as well. There are no insane action set pieces like the molester compound shootout in Gone Baby Gone, the plot isn’t filled with wild-ass twists like in Sacred, the stakes never achieve the “holy shit!” intensity of Darkness Take My Hand. Instead, we get a thoughtful, low-key case where exploring big moral questions and reflecting “how we live now” with a keen, social realist eye take precedent over what true fans might expect: a kick-in-the-nuts thriller with only subtle shades of the aforementioned hoidy-toidy smart shit.
In that respect, I think of Moonlight Mile as less of a sequel to Gone Baby Gone the Dennis Lehane thriller than a follow-up to Gone Baby Gone the Ben Affleck-directed drama. Affleck’s fine directorial debut focused less on the pulpiness, wise-cracks, and straight-up noir fun of Lehane’s story and more on the stark Dorchester setting and big! moral! questions!, giving us a far more somber and serious take on the material. Moonlight Mile is not nearly as serious and anti-pulp as the Affleck’s film – Patrick’s nasty wit and Thin Man-like chemistry with Angie are on full display throughout the novel – but it’s certainly more in line with the movie than purists like myself would expect.
But though I’d rank it fairly low in the Kenzie and Gennaro series, Moonlight Mile is still, you know, a fucking Kenzie and Gennaro book, one of the most addicting non-illegal things you can put under your nose. It’s fun to see where the two have ended up and how much they’ve changed, because while we may want to remember our heroes as the charmingly bloodthirsty vigilantes they once were, we have to embrace their (and Lehane’s) hard-won maturity since, as all thriller readers know, change is a liberty too few series characters are ever granted.