With only a couple of exceptions, I’ve read every Dennis Lehane book published (the exceptions being Coronado: Stories and, oddly, World Gone By). I’ve rarely been disappointed. Probably the only book that ever gave me real pause was Moonlight Mile, the conclusion to the Kenzie/Gennaro series, which felt like Lehane’s heart wasn’t really in it, but that he was acquiescing to demand from fans of the series.
I’d read a couple of non-spoilery reviews of Since We Fell before I started the book, and the one thing that stood out to me was how the book was perceived as having been written for the screen (conveniently, DreamWorks acquired the rights back in 2015, before the book was even completed). This, admittedly, was in the back of my mind as I read, and post-reading, I can safely say that I understand where those reviewers were coming from. You could almost see Lehane casting his characters as he wrote (just, please, no more Afflecks!). At any rate, it felt very cinematic in scope. And perhaps that’s where its downfall lies.
Since We Fell tells the story of Rachel Childs, who was raised by a tough single-mother, and who was left with unanswered questions about her paternity when her mom died. Add to that a demanding career, a loveless marriage, and an eternal conception of the world as an ephemeral place, and you can see how Rachel became a woman who trusted no one, not even herself. Fast forward to life after a disastrous career as a reporter, which culminated in a panic attack amidst the horrors of Haiti after the series of calamities that struck that island in 2010 and subsequent years and Rachel has become a virtual shut-in, afraid of her own shadow.
Only with the love, patience, and guidance of her new husband does Rachel start to thrive again, but she is thrown for a loop when her trust is tested as new revelations about the life she thought she was living come to light.
In many respects, this book feels disjointed, a series of three stories held together by only the most tenuous thread. The final 3/8 of the novel is a psychological crime thriller, which has very little to do with the character study that came before it. Yes, it is a test of Rachel’s psyche and strength, but it felt like it was tacked on to make audiences sit up and take notice.
Lehane has done it better (most notably in Shutter Island) and were it not for the undeniable skill he has in creating atmosphere and the beauty of his prose, this would be an utterly forgettable entry into the genre.