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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Darkness, Take My Hand, by Dennis Lehane. New York: HarperTorch, 2000 (Originally William Morrow and Company, 1996). ISBN: 0-380-72628-9.

I cannot in good conscience recommend this book. Yes, it is a page turner par excellence, but it is also one of the most gratuitously violent books I have read in a long time, or ever care to read. We're talking about a team of mass murderers who have been at their craft for more than 20 years, without getting caught. We're talking dismemberment, crucifixion, torture, burning, vigilantism, spousal abuse, homosexual prison rape, gang and mafia enforcers, kidnapping, hostage taking, all within an otherwise normal seeming urban Boston setting.

Why did I even read such a book? In this case simply because it was a freebie, handed out at a library association conference where the author was one of the featured speakers. And because I had no real notion of what it was going to be like. Did I enjoy it? To be honest, yes and no. Yes in a guilty kind of way, because I couldn't stop turning the pages. No, because I found the excessive use of violence to be ultimately degrading.

This was one of my "exercise books." That means I had it on the exercise bike out in the garage, where I try to spend 15 minutes each morning before my daily shower. And I will confess that rarely have the 15 minutes of mindless pedaling ever gone more quickly than when I was reading this book. I'd be done before I hardly realized I'd gotten started. Lehane is definitely a master at his craft. To describe the storyline as "gripping" would be an understatement. But ultimately, I found the overall effect depressing and debasing. I don't think I'll pick up another of the author's books anytime soon.

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