Darkness, take my hand (Kenzie/Gennaro No. 2), by Dennis Lehane

In the second of the Kenzie-Gennaro series Patrick and Angie are hired by a psychiatrist to keep an eye on her son, against whom the boyfriend of a client has made some unsubtle threats. What starts as a relatively straightforward babysitting job quickly degenerates into something much more nightmarish.

Key elements of this story, not least Patrick’s prison cell confrontation with a serial killer, are reminiscent of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon – but this is Red Dragon from the perspective of the hunted with none of the risible anti-hero worship that became a central theme of the treatment of Hannibal Lecter in that series. Here the killers and their sub-Nietzchean notions are treated with the contempt they deserve.

There is a welcome reduction in wise-cracking in this novel compared to the first novel of the series, A Drink Before the War: a consequence, perhaps, of the characters aging disproportionately as a result of having survived their experiences in the earlier novel. Like its predecessor this novel is underpinned by Catholic notions of good, evil and redemption in situations where even hope is hard to see amid the violence.

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