Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is going to be one of those pain in the ass books to review because you can’t really talk about it without spoiling it, and the things that really need to be discussed all happen later in the plot. Yet there’s so much wrong that I really want to get into all of it. It’s quite a dilemma.
Here’s what I can safely tell you: Rachel Childs’ mother refused to tell her who her father is which leads to a troubled childhood and rebellious teenage years. After her mother’s death Rachel follows up on various clues as she finishes school and becomes a rising star in TV journalism. While reporting in a disaster zone she experiences some terrible events that lead to the derailment of her career and crippling panic attacks that leave her a shut-in almost completely unable to deal with the world outside her apartment. Then some other things happen…
This really seems like two different books. The opening sentence tells us immediately that Rachel is headed for big trouble, but then it jumps way back to her childhood. We spend a lot of time with her growing up and being obsessed with tracking down her long lost father. This goes on for so long that it fools you into thinking that the book is more of a character drama/romance type of thing instead of a straight-up mystery/thriller, and I was actually enjoying this part.
After the turn we know is coming happens it seems like we’re in the territory of a Lifetime movie, but the book still had its head above water at this point. That’s when this plot which had been looking like a psychological suspense thriller turns into something else completely which stretches the suspension of disbelief way past the manufacturer’s recommended limits, and it shatters completely.
I yelled "Oh, bullshit!" so many times during this second part that I sounded like someone walking across a cow pasture wearing his best shoes. (view spoiler)[ Probably the biggest sin here is the idea that there’s not just one but two utterly batshit things that we’re asked to believe. I could have bought into the idea that Brian was a con man who had been working this elaborate long term scheme. If I squint hard enough I’d even go with the idea that with this much planning a couple of grifters would be capable of setting up fake passports and safe houses even though that seems a lot more like spies than con men. But the idea that Brian sets up the whole elaborate thing of having Rachel follow clues to the point where she’ll ‘kill’ him, and then fake his own death solely as a shock treatment to cure her panic attacks is a bridge too far as well as just goddamn ridiculous. Especially in the context that he’s doing this as he’s also trying to steal $70 million dollars from some very bad people. Even the screenwriters of The Game would have rejected this as being too implausible. (hide spoiler)]
I’m a huge fan of Dennis Lehane so this is really disappointing. Now I know how a teacher feels when their favorite student hands in a rotten paper, and they have to give it an F. I suspect that a lot of readers will find the first half boring and pointless compared to the second half, or like me, they'll be more intrigued by the character based first part and think the rest is complete nonsense.
Lehane just got way too cute for his own good here as well as not seeming to have a good handle on what kind of book he was doing. While the writing itself is solid and Rachel is a pretty decent character it’s like he tried to make a peanut butter and tuna fish sandwich, and the results taste about as good as that sounds.
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