World Gone By
by Dennis Lehane
William Morrow & Company
3 out of 5 stars.
I like crime stories set back in the days of fedoras and trench coats, and I’m a big fan of Dennis Lehane’s. So this should be perfect, right? Sadly, the best I can say is that it isn’t bad.
Set 10 years after the previous book, Live By Night, Joe Coughlin has left behind his days of building a criminal empire based on bootlegging to the more respectable position of being a prominent man in Tampa. Joe runs several successful businesses but his real job is to work as an adviser and fixer for the Mob. As World War II rages, the same shortages of men and resources have hit even organized crime. Thanks in part to Joe’s help the drugs, gambling, prostitution, and various other criminal enterprises are still doing well as he splits time between Florida and Cuba.
As a man who makes no enemies and is a cash cow for the Mob, Joe’s days of danger seem to be behind him so he’s shocked to get a tip that a contract has been put out on his life. As Joe tries to find out if there’s any truth to the rumor he also has to deal with an escalating conflict between a white mobster trying to muscle in on the turf controlled by a black man as well as being leaned on by the war department to help them try to root out spies on the docks.
I wanted to love this one, and I found Joe a fascinating character in a lot of ways, this really comes across as kind of a generic gangster story. The last book was Joe’s rise to power and made for the more interesting of the two as he fought to build a bootlegging empire, and this one just didn’t do anything that adds anything new or different to the genre.
The whole trilogy is a little weird because the first one, The Given Day, was more of a look at post-World War I Boston from a social and economic perspective with elements of a crime story that focused on Joe’s family when he was supporting character as a kid. Shifting from that to Joe as a reckless bootlegger and then into the older, wiser counselor was a good story, but didn’t really seem to match up to the first book.
Also posted at Goodreads.