Sunday, April 23, 2023

Small Mercies

Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane
4/25/23; 320 pages

Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane is a very highly recommended, brutal crime thriller set in 1974 Boston during a time of racial tension over school busing. Another excellent novel that is now on my list of the best novels of the year.

Mary Pat Fennessey lives in the projects of the Irish American section of Boston called “Southie.” It's 1974 during a time of social unrest after the courts have ordered busing to desegregate schools. Mary Pat isn't as concerned over that as much as she is over the fact that Jules, her seventeen-year-old daughter, hasn't come home after a night out with friends. As she begins asking questions and searching for her daughter, she learns that a young Black man is found dead after apparently being struck by a subway train. As Mary Pat begins to ask questions, Jules friends claim she was walking home around Midnight, but it also is clear that they are hiding something. What follows is a story of a mother's revenge, violence, Irish mobs, and hate.

As a tough as nails Southie, Mary Pat was raised to fight back. She uses all her instinctive intelligence, building maternal rage, and street fighting instincts while looking for Jules and extracting revenge against those involved. She is not a likable character, but she is portrayed as a fully realized complicated person who has nothing left to lose. She already lost her son to heroin. All she had left was her daughter and she will risk everything for the answers she seeks.

Homicide officer Bobby Coyne is on the case, but his investigation reaches a stand-still. Then, after Mary Pat takes matters into her own hands, he can only stand back and follow the results of her action. During this same time, tensions are rising and it appears violence might break out in the neighborhood over the integration of their schools.

Small Mercies is a gripping, realistic, and complex novel that is filled with tension and violence in a realistic setting. The pace is fast and many of the details are tragic. As expected from all Lehane novels, the writing is excellent. It is impossible to put Small Mercies down once you start it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins via Edelweiss.

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