Dennis Lehane's Live By Night is a top choice among BookBrowse readers. 32 out of 39 reviewers gave it 4 or 5 stars! Here is what they say:
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 (Annie P). I was hooked from the first sentence, the line did not slacken until the last (Elizabeth K). I really enjoyed this book from one of my favorite "guilty pleasures" authors Although the story-line pulled me in, it is the excellent writing that kept me turning the pages. As always, Lehane's writing is well-researched and spot-on with vivid descriptions and vibrant characters. I had already read The Given Day, in which Joe Coughlin first appears, but that is not necessary to thoroughly enjoy Live by Night A wonderfully enjoyable read (Linda S)!
Some readers were interested in learning about the prohibition era in the United States:
The accuracy of the time period, the originality of the characters, and the evolving plot made for a quick and suspenseful read. The New England, Florida, Cuba connection along with the somewhat atypical hero gave an excellent perspective on the prohibition years. I cannot think of how Lehane could have made it better (Norman G). Lehane has proved himself a fine recorder of social history... Filled with period details and a cast of gangster characters hard to forget, the novel should appeal to a large and varied audience (William Y). Dennis Lehane is a magician of history, bringing the past alive and allowing readers to relive prominent events. Living in this era the competition was dangerous, devious, and all-around cutthroat. Joe's story makes this book a page-turner (Patricia D). Has Dennis Lehane started his own genre? This is truly historical fiction as an action thriller, family saga... Lehane's sharp, crisp writing makes all his settings and characters interesting. You feel like you are there booing the villains and worrying about our gangster hero. But this book is essentially about the the action. The story races along and you can't wait to follow. Lehane has written another winner (Bill B).
Other readers were amazed at the depth of sensory detail in Live By Night:
[Lehane] raises what could be common noir material to the level of fine literature and creates characters and scenes that you can actually smell and taste (Ray P). The story will grab you right from the opening paragraph and will not let go until you finish. Lehane's writing transports you back to the sights, sounds and corruption of Boston during Prohibition in the 1920s and you can feel the humidity in the air when the story shifts to Florida. Lehane has done his research, fitting actual historical events and people into a well-crafted story that moves his principal character, Joe Coughlin, from small-time hood to big-time gangster (Jeff M).
Be aware of the level of violence in the book, some readers warn:
This book is not for someone who craves a cozy read. It is a thriller that is often brutal in execution, but never failed to hold my interest. If you want a book that will keep you reading until the end, this is it! (Portia A) As one might expect from a book about the mob, there is much killing, gunplay and violence. None of the characters have clean hands or morals that can be admired. I think it's due to Lehane's talent as a writer that I really cared about these unlikable people (Lora O).
In the end, it is Live By Night's nuanced central character, Joe Coughlin, that captured readers' hearts:
I honestly think it is a gift to be able to write a novel about a gangster kid and have the reader actually feel empathy and compassion for the "bad guy" (Kristine L). I never expected to like a book about unscrupulous and violent gangsters. However, I have to admit this story was so well written and the characters were so fleshed out and believable that I enjoyed the novel very much (Viqui G). In the context of historical fiction, Prohibition did beget gangers, and Dennis Lehane gives us a fully nuanced protagonist, flawed, yet worthy of our time and attention and yes, our hope for peace and redemption. Is justice served? There is some, but is it enough? This book will leave you with some questions to ask yourself. It will also leave you with great appreciation for the fine writing that draws you in from the start, and keeps going until the end of the story. Well done! (Hazel R)
This review was originally published in October 2012, and has been updated for the May 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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