Book Review: Dennis Lehane's The Given Day

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Not being much of a mystery fan, I haven't read Dennis Lehane's best-sellers like

Mystic River


Gone, Baby, Gone

. But I like to rummage around in the often-sneered-at genre of historical fiction, and Lehane's latest is squarely in that category.

The Given Day takes place in Boston just after World War I, when the city was full of anarchists, cops itching to strike over horrid working conditions, a flu epidemic and a clannish world of newly arrived immigrants.

With a cast of finely drawn characters and events that seem sadly inevitable even as they're suspenseful, Lehane easily draws you into the world with hardly a misstep.

His hero is Danny Coughlin, son of a powerful Boston police captain; he's a member of BPD himself but finds himself growing from a man who dismisses the pipe dream of a police strike to leading it.

Typical of the genre, there are cameos by real-life figures. But Calvin Coolidge, who rode his breaking of the strike all the way to the White House, is left a blur; Babe Ruth, about to be traded to the Yankees, feels like he belongs in another book.

It's the main story of Coughlin, battling family, tradition and the establishment, that will hold your interest.

Here's hoping this isn't Lehane's only attempt at going back in time.

-- Richard Connelly

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