Friday, August 9, 2019

SINCE WE FELL Falls a Bit Short of Dennis Lehane's Usual High Standards

I have always been a big fan of Dennis Lehane's series featuring Boston P.I.s Patrick Kenze and Angie Genarro, and Mystic River remains one of my favorite books of all time. For me, at least, the problem is that Lehane set such a very high standard in these books, that whenever he writes something that's a bit more average, I'm inevitably disappointed. Such is the case here.

For openers, I confess that I had a lot of trouble deciding what this book was supposed to be--the story of a young woman searching for the father she never knew; the tale of a rising TV news reporter who has it all only to lose it and then go half nuts, or a thriller featuring the same woman who finally meets another perfect man only to find herself trapped in something closely resembling an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Rachel Childs grew up the only child of an emotionally abusive mother who refused to tell Rachel who her father was. She kept insisting that she would at some point, but then, like Lucy pulling away the football, she kept delaying doing so. Thus Rachel spends much of the first part of the book searching for the man, working from the pathetically few clues that her mother has chosen to give her.

Then, all of a sudden, the focus shifts to Rachel's rising stardom as a reporter. She's found a great and similarly ambitious husband and she's set for big things until something inexplicable happens (something that I had a hard time buying into) and she crashes and burns and winds up psychologically damaged and afraid to leave her house. (I'm not really giving anything away here; most of this is in the tease on the back of the book.) Then Rachel gets a second shot at the brass ring and shortly thereafter her life blows up again and the book moves off in an entirely different direction.

By this time, I was suffering whiplash trying to follow all of this. In fact, Lehane may have crammed into this one book the plots for two or three really good books. But jammed together into one story, it all leaves the reader (at least this reader) just shaking his or her head in disbelief. There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed, although at times Rachel began to get on my nerves, but taken as a whole it just didn't work as well as it might have. It's not a bad book, but as I suggested above, I've set a very high (and perhaps unfair) standard for Dennis Lehane based on his earlier work and Since We Fell falls short of the mark.

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