While the plot twists in A Drink Before the War can sometimes be transparent, Lehane’s prose is taut and thrilling and the relationship between Patrick and Angie reveals itself with aching, naked honesty.
As with Lehane’s other novels, the most important “character” of the books may be Boston itself, a city rich in history, both the kind that inspires pride and that which is hidden in shame.
Although this is a detective novel, a mystery, it is Lehane’s observations about the human condition that make his writing so engaging. Patrick’s observations about the nature of the father-son relationship in this novel seem particularly poignant, given his relationship with his own father:
“Waging war against his father and telling himself that once it was done, he’d be at peace. But he wouldn’t. It never works that way. Once that ugliness has been forced into you, it becomes part of your blood, dilutes it, races through your heart and back out again, staining everything as it goes. The ugliness never goes away, never comes out, no matter what you do. All you can hope to do is control it, to force it all into one tight ball in one tight place and keep it there, a constant weight.”
Lehane’s writing should not be missed, and I look forward to the remaining books in this series.