Gone, Baby, Gone is one of my favourite crime novels, and I revisit it every couple of years out of sheer appreciation for its craftsmanship (its film adaptation is great, too). I’ve read Moonlight Mile — its sequel, penned and set twelve years later — just as often, and love it almost as much. Having reread it recently, it reminded me of how much I miss Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro . . . and also, how effectively Dennis Lehane ended (supposedly) his series.
Moonlight Mile relies on the emotional impact of the gut-punch ending of Gone, Baby, Gone. In that book, private investigators Patrick and Angie rescued four-year-old Amanda McCready from a couple who only wanted the best for her, and returned her to her unfit mother. The morality of that decision has plagued Patrick and Angie for more than a decade; it has become a subject they no longer discuss. In those intervening years, Patrick and Angie have married, and a blessed with a daughter. All things considered — they’re broke, scraping to get by, living from paycheck to paycheck — they are happy. They are a family. Then they learn Amanda disappears again, and wracked by guilt, Patrick makes it his mission to find her, which seems him square up against the Russian Mob and other nefarious characters, putting his wife and daughter’s life at risk.
The twelve-year gap between books works brilliantly. Angie and Patrick have matured, with flickers of their youthful, instinctive selves, but now burdened by other responsibilities. Once upon a time they could — and did — throw themselves into the fray with barely a thought of the consequences. They’re not able to do that anymore. Characters in crime fiction are rarely allowed to age — of if they are, because we revisit them every year or two, their changes and maturity occurs glacially. The constrast between the characters then and now makes Moonlight Mile a real treat. Lehane doesn’t labour on these differences; they’re identifiable, but nuanced.
Moonlight Mile packs plenty of action, well-developed characters, and an ending that’ll leave you wanting more, but also accepting of the fact Patrick and Angie may have nothing else to give. It’s not a revolutionary PI novel. Lehane doesn’t reinvent the wheel, here. But gosh, he’s proves that wheel has plenty of traction. It’s just a darn fine mystery novel with brilliant characters.