"Live by Night" is an incendiary story, spanning the rise in power of Joe Coughlin who is about to turn age twenty as the story unfolds.
The story is addictive as we watch Joe working as a minor criminal and member of Tim Hickey's mob.
There is a scene where Joe is in the hands of his enemies at the start of the story. It appears as if these are his last moments and we read in anticipation of how he came to this situation and if there is some way that he might extricate himself and survive.
Those who have read Dennis Lehane in the past, know how memorable his characters can be. Just consider the grieving father, Jimmy Markum and his nervous childhood friend, Dave Boyle in Mystic River.
Here, again, Lehane returns to Boston to create Joe Coughlin, a strong, resolute, son of Thomas the deputy supervisor of the Boston Police Department.
The action begins in South Boston in 1926, Mobs ruled the city and Joe is the youngest member of Tim Hickey's crew. Most of the mobsters have a cruel streak and the taking of another person's life means little to them. However, Joe is an anachronism in that he cares for his friends and those around him.
As the story moves on, Joe moves up the mob ladder and as he is a leader of his own gang, waiting for prohibition to end so he can provide rum and open a casino, he does whatever he can, to avoid taking anyone's life.
After spending time in the Charlestown Prison and being there when Sacco and Vendetti are executed,
Joe makes his way to Tampa where his goal is to destroy a man who robbed him of his first love.
I was impressed to watch Joe's rise to power and the manner in which he demonstrated his strength and leadership ability. There was something inside him that made others want to follow him.
The prose is descriptive and vivid. We know who is talking and can describe them by their words and Coughlin will take his place as one of Lehane's characters that live on in our memories.