A Drink Before the War (Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro Series #1)

A Drink Before the War (Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro Series #1)

4.2 213
by Dennis Lehane

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As richly complex and brutal as the terrain it depicts, here is the mesmerizing, darkly original novel that heralded the arrival of Dennis Lehane, the master of the new noir — and introduced Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, his smart and tough private investigators weaned on the blue-collar streets of Dorchester.

A cabal of powerful Boston

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As richly complex and brutal as the terrain it depicts, here is the mesmerizing, darkly original novel that heralded the arrival of Dennis Lehane, the master of the new noir — and introduced Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, his smart and tough private investigators weaned on the blue-collar streets of Dorchester.

A cabal of powerful Boston politicians is willing to pay Kenzie and Gennaro big money for a seemingly small job: to find the missing cleaning woman who stole some secret documents. As Kenzie and Gennaro learn, however, this crime is no ordinary theft. It's about justice. About right and wrong. But in Boston, finding the truth isn't just a dirty business ... it's deadly.

Editorial Reviews

Emily Melton
Newcomer Lehane shows plenty of promise in his first book about a PI duo from the mean streets of Boston. Play-rough, talk-tough Patrick Kenzie and smart, feisty Angie Gennaro don't take no lip from nobody when they're on a hot case, and their latest is hot all right. When two well-known U.S. senators ask Patrick and Angie to recover some confidential documents they believe were stolen from their office by cleaning woman Jenna Angeline, the detectives think their job will be a piece of cake: find the woman, tell the senators where she is, and let them take it from there. But of course, the case isn't that easy, and before they're finished, Patrick and Angie tackle gang warfare, corruption, prostitution, blackmail, and murder. Lehane offers slick, hip, sparkling dialogue that's as good as it gets, a plot that rockets along at warp speed, and the wonderfully original, in-your-face crime-solving duo of Kenzie and Dimassi. A terrific first novel and, one hopes, the beginning of a superb series.
From the Publisher
"Harsh and chilling . . . An absolutely terrific story."-The Boston Sunday Globe

"The superb detective novels of Dennis Lehane . . . became a kind of lifeline for me."-Stephen King

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro Series, #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.80(d)

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Chapter One

The old neighborhood is the Edward Everett Square section of Dorchester. It's a little less than five miles from the center of Boston proper, which means, on a good day, it takes only half an hour to reach by car.

My office is the bell tower of St. Bartholomew's Church. I've never found out what happened to the bell that used to be there, and the nuns who teach at the parochial school next door won't tell me. The older ones plain don't answer me, and the younger ones seem to find my curiosity amusing. Sister Helen told me once it had been "miracled away." Her words. Sister Joyce, who grew up with me, always says it was "misplaced,'' and gives me the sort of wicked smile that nuns aren't supposed to be capable of giving. I'm a detective, but nuns could stonewall Sam Spade into an asylum.

The day after I got my investigator's license, the church pastor, Father Drummond, asked me if I'd mind providing some security for the place. Some unfaithfuls were breaking in to steal chalices and candlesticks again, and in Pastor Drummond's words: "This shit better stop." He offered me three meals a day in the rectory, my very first case, and the thanks of God if I set up in the belfry and waited for the next break-in. I told him I didn't come that cheap. I demanded use of the belfry until I found office space of my own. For a priest, he gave in pretty easy. When I saw the state of the room--unused for nine years I knew why.

Angie and I managed to fit two desks in there. Two chairs too. When we realized there was no room for a file cabinet, I hauled all the old files back to my place. We splurged on a personal computer, put as much as we could on diskettes, andstowed a few current files in our desks. Impresses the clients almost enough to make them ignore the room. Almost.

Angie was sitting behind her desk when I reached the top step. She was busy investigating the latest Ann Landers column, so I stepped in quietly. She didn't notice me at first--Ann must have been dealing with a real headcase-- so I took the opportunity to watch her in a rare moment of repose.

She had her feet propped up on the desk, a pair of black suede Peter Pan boots covering them, the cuffs of her char coal jeans tucked into the boots. I followed her long legs up to a loose white cotton T-shirt. The rest of her was hidden behind the newspaper except for a partial view of rich, thick hair, the color of rainswept tar, that fell to her olive arms. Behind that newsprint was a slim neck that trembled when she pretended not to be laughing at one of my jokes, an unyielding jaw with a near-microscopic brown beauty mark on the left side, an aristocratic nose that didn't fit her personality at all, and eyes the color of melting caramel. Eyes you'd dive into without a look back.

I didn't get a chance to see them, though. She put the paper down and looked at me through a pair of black Wayfarers. I doubted she'd be taking them off any time soon.

"Hey, Skid," she said, reaching for a cigarette from the pack on her desk.

Angie is the only person who calls me "Skid." Probably because she's the only person who was in my father's car with me the night I wrapped it around a light pole in Lower Mills thirteen years ago.

"Hey, gorgeous,'' I said and slid into my chair. I don't think I'm the only one who calls her gorgeous, but it's force of habit. Or statement of fact. Take your pick. I nodded at the sunglasses. "Fun time last night?"

She shrugged and looked out the window. "Phil was drinking."

Phil is Angie's husband. Phil is an asshole.

I said as much.

"Yeah, well..." She lifted a corner of the curtain, flapped it back and forth in her hand. "What're you gonna do, right?"

"What I did before," I said. ''Be only too happy to."

She bent her head so the sunglasses slipped down to the slight bump at the bridge of her nose, revealing a dark discoloration that ran from the corner of her left eye to her temple. "And after you're finished," she said, "he'll come home again, make this look like a love tap." She pushed the sunglasses back up over her eyes. "Tell me I'm wrong." Her voice was bright, but hard like winter sun light. I hate that voice.

"Have it your way," I said.

"Will do."

Angie and Phil and I grew up together. Angie and I, best friends. Angie and Phil, best lovers. It goes that way sometimes. Not often in my experience, thank God, but sometimes. A few years ago, Angie came to the office with the sunglasses and two eight balls where her eyes should have been. She also had a nice collection of bruises on her arms and neck and an inch-tall bump on the back of her head. My face must have betrayed my intentions, because the first words out of her mouth were, "Patrick, be sensible." Not like it was the first time, and it wasn't. It was the worst time though, so when I found Phil in Jimmy's Pub in Uphams Corner, we had a few sensible drinks, played a sensible game of pool or two, and shortly after I'd broached the subject and he responded with a "Whyn't you fucking mind your own business, Patrick?" I beat him to within an inch of his life with a sensible pool stick.

I felt pretty pleased with myself for a few days there. It's possible though I don't remember, that I engaged in a few fantasies of Angie and myself in some state of domestic bliss. Then Phil got out of the hospital and Angie didn't come to work for a week. When she did, she moved very precisely and gasped every time she sat down or stood up. He'd left the face alone, but her body was black.

She didn't talk to me for two weeks. A long time, two weeks.

I looked at her now as she stared out the window. Not for the first time, I wondered why a woman like this--a woman who took shit from absolutely nobody, a woman who'd pumped two rounds into a hard case named Bobby Royce when he resisted our kind efforts to return him to his bail bondsman--allowed her husband to treat her like an Everlast bag. Bobby Royce never got up, and I'd often wondered when Phil's time would come. But so far it hadn't.

And I could hear the answer to my question in the soft, tired voice she adopted when she talked about him. She loved him, plain and simple. Some part of him that I certainly can't see anymore must still show itself to her in their private moments, some goodness he possesses that shines like the grail in her eyes. That has to be it, because nothing else about their relationship makes any sense to me or anyone else who knows her.

She opened the window and flicked her cigarette out. City girl to the core. I waited for a summer schooler to scream or a nun to come hauling ass up the staircase, the wrath of God in her eyes, a burning cigarette butt in her hand. Neither happened. Angie turned from the open window, and the cool summer breeze creased the room with the smell of exhaust fumes and freedom and the lilac petals which littered the schoolyard.

"So," she said, leaning back in the chair, "we employed again?"

"We're employed again."

"Ya-hoo," she said. "Nice suit, by the way."

"Makes you want to jump my bones on the spot, doesn't it?"

She shook her head slowly. "Uh, no."

"Don't know where I've been. That it?"

She shook her head again. "I know exactly where you've been, Skid, which is most of the problem."

"Bitch," I said.

"Slut." She stuck her tongue out at me. "What's the case?"

I pulled the information about Jenna Angeline from my inside breast pocket and tossed it on her desk. "Simple find-and-a-phone-call . "

She perused the pages. "Why's anyone care if a middle-aged cleaning lady disappears?"

"Seems some documents disappeared with her. State house documents."

"Pertaining to?"

I shrugged. "You know these politicians. Everything is as secret as Los Alamos until it hits the floor."

"How do they know she took them?"

"Look at the picture."

"Ah," she said, nodding, "she's black."

"Evidence enough to most people."

"Even the resident senate liberal?"

"The resident senate liberal is just another racist from Southie when he ain't residing in the House."

I told her about the meeting, about Mulkern and his lap dog, Paulson, about the Stepford wife employees at the Ritz.

"And Representative James Vurnan--what was he like in the company of such Masters of State?"

"You ever see that cartoon with the big dog and the little dog, where the little dog keeps panting away, jumping up and down, asking the big dog, 'Where we going, Butch? Where we going, Butch?' "


"Like that," I said.

She chewed on a pencil, then began tapping it against her front teeth. ''So, you gave me the fly-on-the-wall ac count. What really happened?"

"That's about it.''

"You trust them?"

"Hell no.''

"So there's more to this than meets the eye, Detective?"

I shrugged. "They're elected officials. The day they tell the whole truth is the day hookers put out for free."

She smiled. "As always, your analogies are splendid. You're just a product of good breeding, you are." Her smile widened as she watched me, the pencil tapping against her left front tooth, the slightly chipped one. "So, what's the rest of the story?"

I loosened my tie enough to pull it over my head. "You got me."

"Some detective," she said. A Drink Before the War. Copyright © by Dennis Lehane. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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A Drink Before the War (Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 213 reviews.
McCarthy92 More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book a couple of minutes ago and I couldn't wait to write a review. This book was fantastic!!! If you love books by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, you will greatly enjoy this book, in that this is a modern day version of those excellent novels. Also if you are a fan of The Wire, the greatest show ever (which Lehane is one of it's writers), this novel weaves important themes such as racism into this book filled with humor, thrills, sexual tension between two Private Investigators, and all things Boston. Along with Pelecanos, Connelly, and Price, Lehane is one of the best crime writers ever. Not because they have the most best-sellers (this does not make someone the greatest crime writer), but because they write the most serious and most realistic crime novels.
avidreader650 More than 1 year ago
If you like interesting characters and snappy patter along the lines of Raymond Chandler and Dashial Hammett you will fall in love with Dennis Lehanne. The two main characters in this book are Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, a pair of Private Eyes hired to find a missing cleaning lady. Their client is a prominent Boston politician, who wishes to find some documents the cleaning lady stole. What starts out as a rather routine job turns into a wild ride of intrigue, betrayal, and death. As all this plays out we are also treated to the underlying romantic/sexual tension between the two main characters. Best of all this is just the first book in a series Kenzie and Gennaro.
Booklover87 More than 1 year ago
I loved this thriller! The characters were so entertaining and well drawn. I will definitely check out the rest of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew Mr. Lehane's books, Shutter Island and Mystic River, as movies, I so enjoyed the movies I checked out the author and discovered treasure! This book was excellent! Raw, gritty, humerous and quick moving, I read it overnight! The main characters, Mike and Angie are fun, alive and wonderfully written! Not for kids this book is graphic, enjoy it, I did! Now onto Mr. Lehane's other books, including Mystic River,and Gone Baby Gone, I've only seen the movies!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like Mr. Lehane's work. He is a creative guy and his books have been consistently entertaining. This being an early effort shows the contrast and growth he has achieved through his career. I plan to read the further versions of the series.
BellabMA More than 1 year ago
The first in the Kenzie, Gennaro series by Dennis Lehane. Once you read this one you won't be able to NOT read the rest of the series. This is my thrid time reading them :)
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
My husband loved A drink before the war, by Dennis LeHane. He likes mysteries, gritty inner-city tales, crime fiction with clever misdirection and intriguing characters, and this book has it all. It also has fast-paced writing, a fascinating first-person narrator, incisive point of view, and a realism that pulls the reader straight in from first page to the last. I'd delayed reading because I feared the novel might just be another long police procedural, but now I've read one I'll certainly hope to read all of LeHane's Kenzie and Gennaro books. Kenzie grew up in Boston. He has a backstory with a violent father that's quietly hinted at but only very slowly revealed, reflecting his own desire not to dwell on it. Another backstory involves Kenzie's feelings for Gennaro who works with him. But Gennaro is married, with problems all her own that Kenzie's not allowed to solve for her. Their relationship is fun. Their dialog is superb. Their concern for each other is naturally down-played and powerfully real. The two of them would carry the reader even if the story weren't so very intriguing. With a clever plot as well, politics, people, race, and larger than life figures that somehow fit the scenery perfectly, this book is definitely a winner. I can't read the next one yet because my to-read list is simply too long. But I'm looking forward to it and I know I'll enjoy it. LeHane now joins that select list of authors that my husband and I both love, and his characters join that group of imaginary people that we talk about while riding in the car.
EUGENEBR More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE THIS SERIES!! Im in love with patrick kenzie and his do whatever it takes attitude and i freaking love bubba!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
started a little slow but i quickly was entertained then wanted more.....so great read.....
mln63 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book a lot. The characters were great, the setting was good. I am looking forward to reading the next in the series.
Sean_From_OHIO More than 1 year ago
Dennis Lehane, who's now had many books turned into movies, started here with "A Drink Before The War" starring Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. These two Boston bred best friends own and operate a detective agency. Lehane's use of these characters, their own demons, and overall grittiness of every aspect of early nineties Boston is phenomenal. Lehane is able to make the lead characters likeable but seriously flawed and not by any stretch of the imagination, straight laced "good guys". The racial overtones ring true and the antagonists are deplorable but sadly believable. I now look forward to reading each of Lehane's novels. A Fantastic writer!
tiger-ray More than 1 year ago
thought"a drink before the war" was great! Lehane uses his characters that gets you hooked. very well written and like always, Lehane has the twist at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dennis Lehane's "A Drink Before the War" is nothing short of fantastic. Not only is Mr. Lehane an excellent writer, but also an excellent storyteller. His descriptions of both Boston and the struggles of those who live within are so accurate that the reader feels that he or she is actually a witness in the story. This is the first Dennis Lehane book that I have had the pleasure of reading, and I look forward to reading many more. J.R. Reardon author, "Confidential Communications"
DanielL More than 1 year ago
This book is a great read for many reasons all the characters are very interesting from Bubba the psychopathic friend of the detectives Angie and Patrick to Phil Angie¿s abusive husband. The whole introduction of the characters and of their past is done wonderfully by the author and many flashbacks bring humorous insights into the characters and give the reader insight to the characters complexity as people. The main plot of the book consists of Patrick and Angie trying to find a stolen item for politicians and gets them into the middle of a gang war. However while the book is very focused on the case there are many important sub conflicts like the interesting relationship between Patrick and Angie. These very insightful looks into the past help readers make their own assumptions to what will happen later in the book. The book also addresses important real life issues like racism which is a very important part of the whole setting of the book which is Boston known to many as a city whose racial war has become infamous. This book is also very explicit and doesn¿t use politically correct terms if you catch my drift and talks about a lot of other issues that may not be suitable for younger readers but serve to forward and elaborate the realism of the book. As the book progresses as in all great detective novels the case takes many turns that leaves the reader wanting to get to the next one and keeps the reader guessing till the end. I would recommend this book to any people who enjoy detective novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like the previous reviewer, I too read Mystic River and thought it was excellent, so I decided to try his other books. A Drink Before The War was outstanding. I figured it would be good and it was even better than that. A brilliant novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read Mystic River and decided to read Lehane's first book, A Drink Before The War. At first I thought I wouldn't like it as much as Mystic River due to it being a series and I usually don read first person, but it was almost better than Mystic River. Lehane can really make you feel for his characters and his prose it so entirely captivating. He brings up many controversial subjects through his writing. He has plots that bring out racial controversies and govermental deficiencies. He really is the best writer to ever set the pen down on paper.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My husband has been telling me for weeks to read this book. Finally, I picked it up one night and could not put it down! Kenzie and Angie are dynamite! All his characters jump right out of the pages and stay with you even after you close the book. I grew up in Boston but haven't lived there for almost 15 years now. But even if I hadn't this author would become one of my favorites. I am reccommending him to all my friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for an exquisit mystery book that will keep you guessing then A Drink Before the War is right up your alley. This book will slice and dice your sanity. There isn't anything that A Drink Before the War doesn't throw at you. Suspense, comedy, and racial issues. After you have ravaged through this book you will feel like you need a perverbial drink before the war of your emotions arises and will leave you feeling like the book ravaged you. This is definitely the best book that I have ever read and I hope that it will captivate you just as much as it has me!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like Juli (above), I just discovered Lehane and I'm so glad I did. His characters are three-dimensional, the descriptions of Boston and its public and private lives are fascinating, the humor is appropriate (I love a wise a_s!) and I could go on and on, but won't. I've read all--working on Gone, Baby, Gone and Prayers for Rain is up next--and they just get better and better. I hope he has quite a few more books in him; some of my other favorite authors have stumbled a bit recently and I'm glad I have a good Kenzie/Gennaro to look forward to. Don't miss this series.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Alaska-Kath More than 1 year ago
Not a deep read but does keep your interest. Some surprising turns in the plot.
MMRED More than 1 year ago
I am enjoying this easy to read summer novel. will recommend it to other readers !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fast pace and interesting characters will keep you engaged.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not my cup of tea. For those that like tough guys with big guns it might just be the book for you. Lot of action with a killing per page. It provides a rather seedy view of all mankind. It also has a lot of racial overtones. I would still give it three stars and if your type of book it would rate at least four stars for good writing.