Gone, Baby, Gone

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Shamus Award winner Dennis Lehane brings back private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, partners and lovers, in their search for a four-year-old girl missing from her unlocked apartment in GONE, BABY, GONE. They join forces with two Boston police detectives, Nick “Poole” Raftopoulos and Remy Broussard, but the investigation expands quickly into a world of drug dealers, stolen money, mutilated bodies, and a night shootout at an abandoned quarry. Patrick, who admits he became a private eye because he liked tearing down facades, soon finds more false fronts than he bargained for.

The case becomes even more complicated when a second missing child, three pedophiles, and a Federal special agent are introduced into the mix. Meanwhile, Patrick begins to have doubts about the integrity of his colleagues on the force, admitting, “I never felt completely at ease with a cop. . . . Cops always hold something back.” Amid unraveling lives and double-crosses, he becomes involved first in a sinister football game and then in a moral dilemma.

Foremost among Lehane’s minor characters is Helene McCready, the girl’s mother, an appallingly dim bulb, an indifferent loser more absorbed in television sitcoms than in the recovery of her daughter. Patrick and Angie also maintain an uneasy relationship with Chris Mullen, Cheese Olamon, and especially Bubba Rogowski, former schoolmates spawned in the same tough, working-class neighborhood, who are now career criminals.

GONE, BABY, GONE’s fast-moving plot is seldom predictable, although the obligatory dying confession is perhaps too convenient. On the whole, this is a troubling, occasionally grisly book that leaves the reader face to face with some difficult moral questions and few answers.