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Crime & Beyond met last week to discuss Live by Night by Dennis Lehane. I will start by saying that the main comment/criticism from almost everyone who read the book was – what the heck, this wasn’t a mystery. When we voted this book in, the description must have made it sound more like a mystery, because a lot of us were surprised. Considering that the same author wrote Shutter Island and Gone, Baby, Gone, I don't think we were wrong to expect one. This book just seems to be one of his novels rather than his crime novels. Jeff pointed out that Gone, Baby, Gone is part of the Kenzie-Gennaro series, which are more our mystery speed. So maybe if we read this author again we go for one of the books in that series.

With that said, a lot of people liked the book. The basic storyline followed Joe Coughlin, a young Boston mobster who claims to be an outlaw rather than a gangster. It takes place during prohibition and Joe gets into the crime game running rum and robbing people (the wrong people in one instance). The themes of the novel seemed to be good versus evil, sometimes it was hard to determine which was which, and living with the consequences of your actions.

There were some good quotes from the book, and they kind of explain the themes too:

"The smallest mistake sometimes casts the longest shadow. When a house falls down, the first termite to bite into it is just as much to blame as the last." - Tim, Joe’s first boss

“The people we service, they visit the night, But we live in it. They rent what we own.” - Tim

“The night. It’s got its own set of rules.” - Joe

“There are no rules but the ones a man makes for himself.” - Joe

The ratings went as high as 10 and as low as 3. The majority of us were in the 5-7 range. I personally tried to rate it on its merit as a novel rather than a mystery, hard as it was. I did notice that most people, even those in the 3 range, commented that Dennis Lehane is a good writer, but this just wasn’t their kind of story.

Many of the positive comments were that the characters were well written. A lot of us thought the beginning was very strong and liked the parts that took place in Boston. Some of us liked the title and what it meant in the story (once we realized that “live” rhymes with “give” rather than “hive”). Some people didn’t like the ending and how everything wrapped up. I liked the scene with Joe and his son looking out across the water toward Cuba. I thought it was a fitting, yet sad ending to Joe’s troubled life.

"Sometimes to keep living is harder than dying." - Kerry, C&B leader

Some of the negative comments stemmed from Joe’s time in prison. Many thought that part dragged on and got boring. A few thought the story got trite and was predictable. A lot of us hated that Graciela died right at the end… and the same way the wife died in A Tap on the Window… with a stray bullet! What? I think it was Dave or Jeff that looked it up and Lehane wrote his book first, so Linwood Barcklay stole the idea.

Like any book, if you don’t like the subject matter, you probably won’t like the book. A few members didn’t like it because they don’t care for 1930s gangster stories, which makes a lot of sense. I love the Prohibition time period and stories that take place then and the mobsters that go along with it, so that didn’t turn me off. But then I still read WWII books and I know a lot of people are sick of that time as well. I think if it’s a good enough story, it would matter less. And clearly, for many, this just wasn’t a good enough story.

A lot of us wanted to slap Emma Gould, I think she got the most votes. Perhaps if we really broke it down, Joe deserves the slap. Emma was just being who she was (as Joe’s Dad says, she was “dead inside”). Joe, on the other hand, spent his whole life first chasing her, then worshipping and avenging the memory of her, then chasing her again when he finds out she’s been alive the whole time. He is the one who put her on a pedestal in his own memory and spent a lifetime remembering her how he wanted to remember her, not how she really was. When he sees her again, to get closure, it’s very clear how she was the whole time, and I can only hope that Joe finally saw her for what she was.

Judy brought in some tasty Key Lime Pie as a nod to Joe’s time in Florida. Luckily she brought two pies because they were very popular!

I don’t remember if we discussed this, but IMDB and Wiki say that Warner Brothers is working on a film. Ben Affleck is to direct, produce, and star alongside Leo DiCaprio. Release date is listed as 2016, so we’ll see.

Next month we will be reading Ghostman by Roger Hobbs, another new to us author. There were VERY few books available to pass around, so please read fast and return to the library when you’re done. Ask a librarian to put it on the Crime & Beyond shelf and email me or the whole group that there is a book available. I will be leading the Ghostman discussion and Linda is bringing snacks.

Thanks,

Kerry

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