Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
The publication of a new work by Dennis Lehane is always a cause for celebration as well as one of nervous anticipation for the reader, as this Bostonian literary crime-writer sets his bar high. We are pleased to report that Lehane has indeed excelled again with a dark and highly charged thriller; one that will make the reader think deeply about the role identity plays in our lives, and that of those that surround us.
Since We Fell is a book staged in three acts, with a provocative prologue that sets the scene for this psychodrama. At the core of this remarkable thriller sits Rachel Childs, a former journalist turned Television reporter who ponders over her fractured childhood. Rachel was brought up as an only child by her controlling Mother, Elizabeth who refused to talk about James [her Father] after he left the family. All Rachel has are a few childhood memories of his embrace and that ‘James’ was an Academic; a teacher. Elizabeth Childs came into money following her publication ‘The Staircase’ became a commercially successful book; which robbed her of the unhappiness she cloaked herself in [according to her daughter].
Following the death of her Mother in a random car accident with a truck, Rachel is free to search for her Father, aided by clues uncovered by rifling through her late Mother’s possessions. She enlists the help of a Private Eye, Brian Delacroix who reluctantly agrees to help but warns her that the trail is pretty cold and it could be costly with a very slim chance of success. It is interesting that Lehane uses a PI as a protagonist [with Delacroix] considering it was Lehane’s award-winning PI series featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro that launched his career in the 1990s.
Rachel’s mental state has always been fragile, which eventually leads into a full-on breakdown on live TV whilst reporting back from Port-au-Prince following the horror of the earthquake that shook Haiti. There are harrowing scenes vividly realised, and terrifyingly projected as Lehane paints a brutally stark view of the dark-side of human nature, when life holds no value to some among our midst.
On her return to Massachusetts, the whole experience in Haiti makes Rachel retreat into herself with deep agoraphobia, trapping herself in her house so she can avoid contact with others. Her career is in tatters, her efforts in-concert with the Private Eye take interesting twists and turns - but the mystery of her Father’s identity remains like a shadow on the wall.
Then we move to the second part of Since We Fell, for a chance encounter results in Rachel finding love; a supporting love that teases her out of her protective cocoon to face the world. Then another chance happening [or is it chance?] results in her questioning the man who she clings to for happiness; her husband - for like her Father’s shadow on the wall, Brian’s identity becomes something that she needs to investigate for her own sanity.
There are sections of writing in Since We Fell that stop you in your tracks; make you contemplate your own life and situation and that of others, for Lehane’s narrative is peppered with insight and questions. There is humour but it is cloaked over the veils that cover the characters. Though, anyone who asked for a panel place at the 2015 World Mystery Convention [Bouchercon] held in Raleigh NC might well smile at one point; because I certainly did.
The ability to read on, when what appears as a startling revelation is unfurled becomes essential with this new work from Lehane. Rewards await the patient, as Lehane [like in his previous novels] seeds the prologue with clues that make the re-reading of the prologue after finishing the book, totally essential.
It is difficult to comment further on the final third of the work, for fear of spoiling the events that make Rachel and the Private Investigator Brian re-evaluate their lives and situations – as much as it forces the reader to do exactly the same.
In the closing sections Lehane reveals a surreal international conspiracy with death and money stalking the characters that may or may not be who they present themselves as.
Identity is something we should never take for granted, for Lehane examines what it means be to ‘who we are’, and also ‘why we are’ for understanding of ourselves, as well as those we interact with can help prevent the fall that we all fear.
Since We Fell is an exceptional piece of work; crafted for readers who like insight within their literary entertainment, suffused with a love for humanity and a fear of our dark side. It will provoke thought as you find yourself lost in a World that resembles our own, but viewed in parallax.
We would advise pre-ordering now as Dennis Lehane is making a Guest Appearance at Theakstons Harrogate Crime Writing Festival this summer, and will be discussing Since We Fell.