Boston, 1926. The '20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world.
Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city's most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw.
But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one - neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover - can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt.
Joe embarks on a dizzying journey up the ladder of organized crime that takes him from the flash of Jazz Age Boston to the sensual shimmer of Tampa's Latin Quarter to the sizzling streets of Cuba. Live by Night is a riveting epic layered with a diverse cast of loyal friends and callous enemies, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream. At once a sweeping love story and a compelling saga of revenge, it is a spellbinding tour de force of betrayal and redemption, music and murder, that brings fully to life a bygone era when sin was cause for celebration and vice was a national virtue.
Live by Night gets you right in the gut. Joe is attractive in a night-prowling animal kind of way. He is the guy girls want but most listen to Mom and stay the hell away from him. You know all along he is going to have the worst end but you still want to tag along and be a vicarious part of his life. I was hooked from the first sentence, the line did not slacken until the last. (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
NPR - Jennifer Reese
In his taut, twisty novels set in the modern era, like the magisterial Mystic River, Lehane burrows into the dark psyches of his characters without stopping to show how they lace up their shoes. This is Lehane's second historical crime novel, after 2008's The Given Day. That book featured a few of the same characters, and all of the same shortcomings. Like the vintage car collector who endlessly waxes his prized Packard but won't take it on the road, Lehane lovingly amasses the perfect period details but can't breathe life into this novel.
The Boston Globe - Eugenia Williamson
Lehane’s fondness for the past becomes truly problematic when Live by Night boils over into the didacticism of the pre-war American social novel. [However], the failings of Live by Night are largely overshadowed by its absorbing virtues.
Entertainment Weekly - Thomas Geier Live by Night is a ripping, movie-ready yarn that jumps from a Boston prison to Tampa speakeasies to a Cuban tobacco farm. B+
Starred Review. Lehane has created a mature, quintessentially American story that will appeal to readers of literary and crime fiction alike.
Starred Review. This is an utterly magnetic novel on every level, a re-imagining of the great themes of popular fiction - crime, family, passion, betrayal - set against an exquisitely rendered historical backdrop.
Starred Review. either as epic in scope nor as literarily ambitious as its predecessor, the novel builds to a powerful series of climaxes, following betrayal upon betrayal, which will satisfy Lehane's fans and deserves to extend his readership as well. Power, lust and moral ambiguity combine for an all-American explosion of fictional fireworks.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Les G. (Fort Collins, CO) Fascinating Story I have to admit that I started this book expecting another Shutter Island. It's not like that at all. Instead, Live By Night follows a gangster from Boston to Ybor City as his makes a name for himself and becomes more and more powerful. All in... Read More
Rated of 5
by Mary G. (Purcellville, VA) Lehane's best work Live By Night is the rare sequel that is actually better than its predecessor--in this case The Given Day. Not only is this a fascinating look at the Prohibition era, but the characters are utterly intriguing. I was very conflicted about who were... Read More
Rated of 5
by Melissa Y. (Knoxville, TN) Fantastic Read! What a book! This was my first time reading a book by this author and I will definitely read more. It's seems rare anymore that I become fully immersed in a story and its characters while totally losing track of time. Live by Night was one of... Read More
Rated of 5
by Cheryl W. (Cassville, MO) Live By Night I have read all of Dennis Lehane's work. This is not one of his best. It had a slow start and an abrupt end. If you have never read his work before this is not the one to start with. I was disappointed.
Rated of 5
by Lora O. (Antioch, CA) Feel the Heat and Taste the Rum Live By Night follows Any Given Day in the saga of the Coughlin clan, a powerful family with history in Boston police department and some of the characters of the earlier novel make an appearance here. Joe Coughlin is the youngest brother... Read More
Rated of 5
by Kristine L. (The Woodlands, TX) Loving the Bad Guy I really enjoyed reading this book. Not only did I enjoy the historical time period of Boston during the 1920's but I enjoyed the theme's of family - Father and Son, Good and Evil, and a bit of romance too. I honestly think it is a gift to be... Read More
Prohibition in the United States began on January 17, 1920 when the 18th Amendment, ratified the previous year, took effect. It ended with the passing of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933, which repealed the 18th. Illegal liquor was, of course, produced and sold during this time. It was typically lousy stuff; poor quality drink made, sometimes, from types of alcohol not intended for human consumption. But Florida was a different story. High quality rum and other spirits were available just a few hundred miles away in the Bahamas and Cuba. The only thing separating thirsty Floridians and these riches were the perilous Florida Straits, but where there's a will, there's a way, or so the saying goes - and so rum-running was invented.
The boundary between the US and international waters was, at the time, only 3 miles off the coast of Florida. Ships would line up in this area - Rum Row - and daring sea captains would retrieve the liquor and make their way back to land. From there, the liquor would be shipped all over the US (by people like Al Capone, who lived in Miami...
Charity Girl examines one of the darkest periods in our history, when patriotic fervor and fear led to devastating consequences. During World War I, the U.S. government went on a moral and medical campaign, quarantining and incarcerating young women who were thought to have venereal diseases. They were called charity girls
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