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The Given Day - Dennis Lehane

The Hungry Detective was there at the beginning. I read A Drink Before the War before the world cracked the first pages of Mystic River 5 or 6 years later. The Kenzie and Gennaro books built a legion of Lehane fans, but I suspect that Mystic River, Shutter Island, and The Given Day out sell the K+G books. Easily. 2 to 1? 3 to 1? So I have had a strange relationship with the non-series books. When someone mentions how much they like Mystic River or Shutter Island I reflexively respond by saying "You should read Gone, Baby, Gone." An admittedly a snobby way of turning up my nose at those books as not the real Dennis Lehane. Silly, but Pat and Angie are my friends and I want them to be your friends too. The people in Mystic River and Shutter Island are generally, but not all, unpleasant to the extent that I was happy to say goodbye to them once the last word was read and the book closed. Great stuff to be sure, but one night stands definitely.

The Given Day is a planned trilogy, so right off the bat Dennis is saying get comfortable, these people are going to be around for a while. Thankfully there is a lot to cheer for here. Namely Luther Laurence and Danny Coughlin. The later is a Boston Cop and the former is a black ball player. Both are men of poor decision making skills, but one should not doubt their high moral principals. The book could be and has been summed up by saying it is about the Boston Police Strike, but that is like saying the Super Bowl is a football game played in late January, early February. It is sort of pointless to be that reductive especially with a book this big.

At just over 700 pages The Given Day announces itself as an epic, but I think it is too soon to tell. Maybe once the follow up books have been written and read judgment can be passed. The word epic is thrown around too easy. At 700+ pages this is simply a well told tale that readers should enjoy on all levels. To me an epic is a story that is more than just a high page count, it is a journey. The Given Day is just the beginning of the journey. (Besides Dennis Lehane's epic is Darkness Take My Hand. See? Snobby.) The world of Laurence and Danny is just opening up to us.

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