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Tuesday 30 May 2017

‘Live by Night’ by Dennis Lehane

Published by Abacus,
13 December 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-349-14287-9

1920s America, with prohibition in full swing. Small-time crook Joe Coughlin was nineteen when he fell in love with Emma Gould, ‘moll’ of one of the town’s key liquor bosses ...

This page-turning gangster story begins seven years later: Joe’s on a boat, with his arms bound and his feet in a bucket of cement. It then goes straight back to the main story, his first heist, where he meets Emma, and followed his journey from petty criminal to the respected and feared organiser of a major liquor racket. The third-person focus is on Joe throughout, so we’re taken right into his world, feel share his shock and pain as the world double-crosses around him, and sympathise with the choices he makes. He’s a likeable gangster, endearingly naive and loyal, vulnerable in his love for the enigmatic Emma, and unwilling to kill. He’s surrounded by a cast of equally-vivid characters: his police chief father, his ruthless best friend, Dion, and top shark Maso Pescatore. The historical background is casually, convincingly done, with deft references to cars, costume and current events. There’s a high body count, though the violence isn’t too graphic, and you need to stay alert on who’s working for who, because that changes frequently. The action builds up to a breath-holding climax and a satisfying conclusion.

A roller-coaster thriller which takes you to the heart of the Prohibition mob world.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Dennis Lehane was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts.. Since his first novel, A Drink Before the War, won the Shamus Award, he’s published nine more novels since then. Lehane was a staff writer for HBO’s The Wire, and is a writer/producer on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He has taught fiction and literature at the Harvard Extension School, the Stonecoast MFA Program, and Tufts University.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Mr. Lehane worked as a counsellor with mentally handicapped and abused children, waited tables, parked cars, drove limos, worked in bookstores, and loaded tractor-trailers. He and his wife and children divide their time between Boston and Los Angeles.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

A review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings can be read here.

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