Dennis Lehane & Lawrence Osborne

Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) has always had that Boston Irish bad boy appeal. Definitely not to the manner born, he comes across as a guy who’s spent his share of time in working class bars and knows something about the seamier side of life. A soundtrack to his work would include a heavy dose of Bruce Springsteen.

Lehane_sinceLehane’s latest, Since We Fell, is the perfect, highly entertaining antidote to the current state of life in the USA. I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate. Plus you get a big bang for your buck because it’s almost two books in one, the psychological profile of a messed up young woman and a suspenseful thriller.

At the center of the action is Rachel Childs, who spends the first half of the novel searching for her father whose identity her narcissistic mother has withheld. Despite the profound void at the center of her life, Rachel becomes a successful television journalist, only to fall apart while covering the devastation in Haiti. After meeting the too-good-to-be-true Brian and marrying him, she discovers that he indeed is too-good-to-be-true and the suspense begins.

Lehane is a clever, inventive writer and he keeps the action zipping along. His command of language elevates this book above many of this genre, though I hasten to say there’s a whole lot more great writing in the crime/thriller category these days.

And of course Since We Fell will be made into a movie, as have a number of Lehane’s previous novels. That cinematic quality shines through here (you’ll cast it in your mind) but not in a cheesy formulaic way.

Lawrence Osborne has a new novel, Beautiful Animals, that got a lot of buzz. I read it and didn’t like it but was interested enough to check out some of his earlier work. I found The Forgiven, which he wrote about five years ago, much more compelling.

Osborne_forgivenIt’s the story of a privileged English couple who journey to an old friend’s remote home in the Moroccan dessert for an extravagant weekend party. En route they have have a car accident on a dark dessert road, killing a young native man who has run out in the road in an attempt to sell local fossils to the rich tourists.

The novel is one of severe culture cash. Osborne has great fun skewering the rich with descriptive detail of fake silver palm trees and cannabis-laced honey party treats and depicting the disgust and anger their hedonism and casual brutality inspires in the locals.

A veteran travel journalist, he’s clearly familiar with both the geography of the area of Morocco about which he writes and the local culture. He creates an ominous tension when the odious main character is forced to leave his familiar world with its creature comforts and travel deep into the unfamiliar and unforgiving dessert.

Like the best fiction, The Forgiven takes us beyond its characters to consider its larger themes: privilege and deprivation, tradition, culture, respect and revenge.