In a moment of total muppetry, I didn’t actually read the blurb before ordering this book. I mean, why wouldn’t I just hit the button as soon as I saw a new Dennis Lehane crime thriller? He’s never let me down before, not since 1994 when ‘A Drink Before The War’ started the stunning Kenzie and Gennaro series. Maybe the stand-alone books since ‘Moonlight Mile’ haven’t quite reached those initial emotional peaks of uncompromising commitment, but both ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘Mystic River’ were accomplished efforts. So it felt like a no-brainer to plonk ‘Since We Fell’ on my kindle.
Then the horrendous truth dawned on me. The synopsis goes like this:
‘Rachel’s husband adores her. When she hit rock bottom, he was there with her every step of the way as she slowly regained her confidence, and her sanity. But his mysterious behaviour forces her to probe for the truth about her beloved husband.
‘How can she feel certain that she ever knew him?
‘And was she right to ever trust him?’
Oh jumpin’ Jehoshaphat in supersheer 10-denier tights, I have been swagged into reading ‘a girl’ thriller. A domestic noir. A ‘twisty-turny psychological OMG that’s so scary’ novel. Something like The Archers but without the dairy cows. Please god, don’t let there be any babies. It could only be worse if there were babies.
Get a grip, woman. You have swum oceans and crossed continents. You can cope with one story in which the most frightening thing is a bottle of warm Prosecco (the horror! The horror!). And maybe it won’t be so bad. The author is, after all, one of the genius guys who wrote The Wire. Maybe he can bring some brilliance to this sub-genre.
The opening chapters, detailing the heroine’s weird mother and her equally odd upbringing are pretty promising. In his typical fashion, Lehane scatters perfect nibs of pointed prose around the place as if they’ve simply tumbled out of a crumbling cookie. Try this:
‘…the fame and money robbed her mother of excuses for her unhappiness. Her mother, brilliant at analyzing the problems of strangers, never had a clue how to diagnose herself. So she spent her life in search of solutions to problems that were born, raised, lived and died within the boundaries of her own marrow.’
Wow. I got shivers just typing that. The man is brilliant and he can skewer the whole of the human psyche in a few short sentences.
But things go rapidly downhill when Rachel, a wilting flower of modern womanhood, has a melt-down on camera and dissolves into a puddle of self-obsessed agoraphobia. (I’ve nothing against anyone who has a snivelling hideous breakdown, of course. Myself included. But as a narrative lynchpin it’s worn way too thin to be entertaining).
Then things go really off the rails with (capital letters alert) THE MOST RIDICULOUS PLOT DEVICE I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED. It doesn’t just stretch credibility, it warps the suspension of disbelief into a whole other universe. If you actually read this book then ask yourself how the air supply could possibly be in the right place – how the evil scheming untrustworthy (or perhaps not…) chap could ever have predicted the course of events that led to it being a major MacGuffin. Or don’t. I mean, save yourself some pain.
I can only assume that Lehane wrote this book for a bet. He probably looked at all the suburban semi-detached not-particularly-thrilling novels which currently occupy the crime best-selling lists and said; ‘I can do that. Easy. I can so do that.’ And this is the result. Point proved, Dennis. Can we have a proper crime-thriller next time out? Pretty please?
Wonderful writing but an entirely unfulfilling experience.
Reviewed by a remarkably unimpressed Rowena Hoseason
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane is available in multiple formats, all of them expensive (£19.50 for a paperback! Are these people delusional?)
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