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

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Overview

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 ...

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

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Overview

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.

This highly acclaimed first novel introduces an intrepid pair of tough Boston private investigators, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. The duo are confronted by a cadre of powerful Boston politicos offering big money to locate a missing cleaning woman. As the investigation unfolds, the partners are soon drawn into the deadly crossfire among warring political factions.

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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
PRAISE FOR A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR
"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380726233
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/1996
  • Series: Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane is the author of ten novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; Shutter Island; The Given Day; Moonlight Mile; and Live by Night, as well as Coronado, a collection of short stories and a play. He and his wife, Angie, divide their time between Boston and the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Biography

Dennis Lehane knows Boston like the back of his hand. Born and raised in Beantown, he left to attend college and graduate school in Florida, but -- like a homing pigeon -- he returned soon thereafter. In order to support himself while he focused on his writing, he took a number of odd jobs that included counseling mentally handicapped and abused children, loading trucks, parking cars, working in bookstores, and waiting tables.

While he was still in college, he wrote the first draft of A Drink Before the War. Published in 1994, this Shamus Award winner introduced Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, private investigators who live and work in Dorchester, the same blue-collar Boston neighborhood Lehane grew up in. Since their compelling debut, Kenzie and Gennaro have gone on to star in a gritty crime noir series acclaimed by readers and critics alike.

The idea for his breakout novel , 2001's stand-alone thriller Mystic River, came to Lehane while he was still writing the Kenzie-Genarro installment Prayers for Rain. The story of three childhood friends who share a dark past, Mystic River is a murder mystery with powerful psychological overtones. An immediate sensation, the book achieved blockbuster status when Clint Eastwood turned it into an award-winning film in 2003. Then, in his 2007 directorial debut, Ben Affleck adapted Lehane's favorite Kenzie-Gennaro novel, Gone, Baby, Gone, for the big screen.

Lehane's career shows no signs of slowing down, Since the success of his Boston-based mysteries, he has broadened his oeuvre to include television screenplays and short stories -- one of which, "Until Gwen," was adopted into a successful, limited-run play.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Lehane:

"My favorite job was parking cars."

"My favorite game is pool."

"I have an obsession with the color blue -- blue house, blue car, lots of blue shirts."

"I love good writing. Unequivocally. I think competition between writers is wonderful and healthy, but I never understood envy. When a peer writes a book that I know I couldn't have written, I feel the strangest elation because at this point I learn as much if not more from my peers as I do from the old masters."

"I unwind to Red Sox games and am a Patriots season ticket holder. The worst months of every year are February and March -- no baseball, no football, no point."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 4, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dorchester, Massachusetts
    1. Education:
      B.A., Eckerd College, 1988; M.F.A., Florida International University, 1993
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

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?' "

"Yes."

"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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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 202 )
Rating Distribution

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(98)

4 Star

(63)

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(27)

2 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 203 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Drink Before the War

    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.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent

    I loved this thriller! The characters were so entertaining and well drawn. I will definitely check out the rest of the series.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    P.I. fiction at it's best

    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.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    Great read!

    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!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Interesting

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great characters, atmosphere and plot

    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.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 10, 2013

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED....DENNIS LEHANE KNOWS HOW TO DEVELOP CHARACTERS

    ONCE YOU START READING VERY HARD TO PUT DOWN LEHANE GETS INSIDE THE MINDS OF EACH OF HIS CNARACTERS
    A GREAT WHO DONE IT.... YOU GET TOTALLY IMMERSED IN THE STORY
    KEEP WRITING DENNIS...THERES NONE BETTER

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2013

    Im obsessed with this series

    I LOVE THIS SERIES!! Im in love with patrick kenzie and his do whatever it takes attitude and i freaking love bubba!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012

    great read

    started a little slow but i quickly was entertained then wanted more.....so great read.....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2011

    Highly receommended

    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 :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good Book

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Hard core Boston street level action!!

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    good crime adventure

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A toast to Mr. Lehane!!!

    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"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2008

    Great Book all around

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2006

    Outstanding

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2003

    Poignant To The Very Last Line!!!!!!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2002

    outstanding!!!! Why did I wait so long?

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2000

    The Rivoting Uneasiness Requires 'A Drink Before the War'

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2000

    WOW!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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