Gone, Baby, Gone is the third Dennis Lehane book I’ve read. I’ve previously read Mystic River and loved it and Shutter Island and thought it was okay. I reposted the Mystic River review but I can’t find where I reviewed Shutter Island anywhere. Too bad.
Continuing his theme of writing about children as well as about less than perfect characters, Gone, Baby, Gone stars Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro (who I believe appear in other Lehane books as well). They are private investigators who are hired to find Amanda McReady who has been abducted. She’s a small child with a neglectful drug addict for a mother. Soon they find out that not only had Helene McReady abandoned the child for 10+ hours to drink at a bar, she had recently helped rip off Sven
Cheese Olamon the local drug lord of $200,000. Revenge for the theft puts Cheese at the top of the list of suspects. But it gets a lot more complicated when an exchange of the $200,000 for Amanda McReady goes horribly wrong; Kenzie and Gennaro are shot at and pinned down in a quarry, while the pick-up men for Cheese are found dead in a car. Who did the shooting and how they got away become the mystery. The next day Cheese is found dead in the prison where he serves time and runs the drug trade.
In the whole book, there’s really only two characters who are typical good people. Beatrice McReady, the aunt who hires Kenzie and Gennaro, and Amanda McReady herself. Together they get very little screen time. Kenzie and Gennaro have killed people in cold blood in the past. Cheese is a fairly upright guy on the other side. Helene McReady of course is a nearly worthless mother. The two cops on the case, Nick Raftopoulos and Remy Broussard show a complete willingness to break the rules, skipping search warrants for instance.
The looming question throughout the book is that of returning Amanda McReady to her mother Helene, who is a worthless mother. While she is in the hands of kidnappers, she’s certainly likely to be killed. But should she be returned to her mother if she’s found?
The plot is pretty complicated, but at least it doesn’t rely too much on coincidence. Still, there are a couple of huge plot holes that bothered me. One is that Cheese, after the failed exchange, has every reason to spill the beans of what he knows. He doesn’t, because he’s afraid of the real bad guy. Yet when the story ends, I realized Cheese had little to lose from the bad guys who left his two pick up men dead at the scene. Plus, there are a couple of other pivot points that require the cooperation of people who really could enhance their own prospects if they do not cooperate. I think that’s all a side effect of a complicate story.