Moonlight Mile is written as a sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone, but the author does a great job of filling you in on the background of the story, so you can enjoy this book regardless of whether you read the previous one.
In Gone, Baby, Gone, four-year-old Amanda McCready was kidnapped, and private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro were hired to find her. She had been living with a mother addicted to drugs, alcohol, and dysfunctional men; those who “kidnapped” her were actually trying to save her. But Kenzie insisted Amanda be returned to her mother, no matter how neglectful she was:
“Rationally, I know damn well I don’t want to live in a world where people can just pluck a child out of a family they deem bad and raise a stolen child as they see fit.”
Kenzie invokes the necessity of laws to keep order in a society, and in particular the role of the Department of Children and Families (DCF): they have “due process” he says; they investigate diligently and only then take kids away. [Oddly, Lehane has Kenzie ignore the failures of DCFs to keep up with caseloads, follow-up on investigations and house visits, etc. In addition, Kenzie seems to forget the corruption he himself has uncovered in the DCF, a breach of the public trust which surely vitiates his argument.]
Kenzie repeatedly is forced by what he finds out as a private investigator to make a choice about what he exposes: on the one hand, he feels obligated to do the job for which he is being paid. He also counts on the alleged “neutrality” of the law to absolve himself of any resulting chaos from his disclosures. But often, situational ethics cry out for a different solution. This was certainly the case with Amanda, and indeed with many of the cases he takes. After years of feeling bad for the havoc he has wreaked, finally, in Moonlight Mile, Kenzie tries to atone for past sins of judgment by bending just a bit to allow others to opt for solutions that may not be so legal, but that are infinitely superior.
There is another consideration that has mellowed Kenzie: he and Gennaro are married now, with a 4-year old daughter they both love dearly, in spite of the fact that parenthood sometimes can be boring and/or drive them crazy.
Thus when Kenzie finds out that Amanda, now sixteen, is missing again, the two of them jump on the case. Little do they expect that this will mean life-threatening encounters with drug dealers, black market baby traders, and the Russian mafia. If they get out of this one, they are determined to retire from this dangerous life.
Evaluation: Some of the dialogue between Patrick and Angela seems too well-scripted, as if we were reading the screenplay for a Nick and Nora Charles movie instead of a real-life interchange between husband and wife. It’s witty, it sparkles, but is it real?
Kenzie’s reasoning about doing the wrong thing for the “right” reason was very off-putting to me. He didn’t hesitate to bend the law when it suited his own purposes, but refused when it was clear he was doing more harm than good by claiming the equivalent of “I was just following orders.” In a better-written book, this might be an interesting character flaw, but I got the impression that Lehane didn’t see the connection, and furthermore, thought he was showing moral integrity instead of moral cowardice.
The resolution struck me as rather unrealistic, although my inner jury is still out on that one. It was quite a shark jump, but seemed a big stretch, nevertheless.
Still, on a positive note, one could say it’s a fast-moving story that seems a bit like an episode of the TV show “Without a Trace.” It would be an okay choice for an airport or other occasion requiring a diverting book.
Published by William Morrow, 2010