Book Review

Review: Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane

Darkness, Take My Hand - Dennis Lehane
Darkness, Take My Hand – Dennis Lehane

Master of new noir Dennis Lehane magnificently evokes the dignity and savagery of working-class Boston in Darkness, Take My Hand, a terrifying tale of redemption.

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro’s latest client is a prominent Boston psychiatrist, running scared from a vengeful Irish mob. The private investigators know about cold-blooded retribution. Born and bred on the mean streets of blue-collar Dorchester, they’ve seen the darkness that lives in the hearts of the unfortunate.

But an evil for which even they are unprepared is about to strike, as secrets that have long lain dormant erupt, setting off a chain of violent murders that will stain everything – including the truth.

With razor-sharp dialogue and penetrating prose, Darkness, Take My Hand is another superior crime novel from the author of Mystic River; Gone, Baby, Gone; and Shutter Island.

The second installment in the Kenzie and Gennaro series is extremely dark but such a compelling story that it’s one of my absolute favorite books ever. Unlike the first book, this one is much more personal to the characters and veers from the social commentary of its predecessor to focus more on the themes of love and loss, in all their complexities.

This is one of very few books I’ve ever read to actually surprise me. Every time I thought I knew where Lehane was going, I was wrong and although I’ve read it countless times, this story never gets old for me. It’s just that well done.

We get a more in-depth look into our hero and heroine, both strengths and flaws. From Angie’s complicated relationship with her abusive ex-husband to the hidden scars Patrick bears from his violent childhood, we watch them fail and succeed in their personal lives in ways large and small. The first book had an element of will they or won’t they about Patrick and Angie but this story seems to dispel any such notion.

Lehane continues to develop an outstanding cast with the secondary characters bringing back Devin, Phil and especially Bubba, among others. All of these relationships have a complexity and nuance that draws readers in and makes you care.

Their client is a prominent psychiatrist who treated the abused girlfriend of a brutal organized crime figure and now someone’s threatening her son. They suspect it’s an effort to intimidate Dr. Warren into forgetting everything the patient shared about Boston mob soldier Kevin Hurlihy. There’s no evidence of any real threat to Jason Warren or anyone else so the case is closed.

There are hints of the political corruption and organized crime they battled in the first book but the forces they’re facing this time are something far more complicated and frightening. A dark history will come to light, forever changing the way they view their neighborhood, the only home they’ve ever known, and even their own parents.  

But what those seemingly empty threats soon morph into a living nightmare before their eyes. As the bodies begin to pile up, investigators are baffled because these crimes follow the signature of killer who’s been imprisoned for decades. Nobody’s making progress on the case, not our heroes, not the Boston PD and not even the FBI. Things continue to deteriorate until Patrick and Angie go from being the hunters to being the prey. Their enemies are a step ahead of them throughout and it ends up costing them more than one person they love.

The ending is devastating in so many ways. Will they second-guess themselves forever, wondering what might have been had they made different choices? Will they come out of it stronger for their mistakes and losses? Every character will be irrevocably changed by these experiences, their persons and their relationships permanently altered in many ways. This is a story of love, loss, reckoning and the damage caused by pure evil and Lehane tells the tale masterfully. No matter how many times I’ve read this book, I always want to read it again, so I do.

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro series

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