Before I picked up "Prayers For Rain", I'd never heard of Dennis Lehane. By the time I'd finished it, I was a believer, and my charge card was groaning from the weight of the Lehane books I'd ordered from Amazon.com. The reason: in a field already crowded with thriller writers, Lehane stands out both for the crispness of his stories and his prose, and for the tremendous sense of style and place he imbues his stories with.
Both these characteristics are present in spades in "Prayers For Rain", a novel that has already climbed bestseller lists worldwide. Boston investigator Patrick Kenzie is approached by a young woman named Karen Nichols, who is being harassed by a stalker. A little "friendly persuasion" from Kenzie - and his pal, the dangerously unbalanced Bubba Rogowski - soon persuades the stalker to turn his attention elsewhere, and, as the summer wears on, Kenzie soon forgets about Karen Nichols.
He's reminded of her a few months later, when he reads about her suicide in a local paper. His interest aroused, Kenzie begins an investigation into her death - and soon realizes that he's up against a murderous psychopath who torments his victims to the point where they commit suicide in order to be free of him. As the killer learns of their investigation, and turns his sights on people closest to them, Kenzie, his beautiful ex-partner Angie Gennaro, and Bubba soon find themselves matching wits with an unscrupulous therapist, an affluent Boston family with long-buried secrets, the Boston Mob, and a quarry who seems to always be a few steps ahead of them...
Fast-paced, tightly-plotted, and with a new surprise every few pages, "Prayers For Rain" is, quite simply, one of the best suspense novels you're likely to read this year. Lehane's characterizations are picture-perfect, his dialogue crackles, and his descriptions of Boston and its surroundings create a sense of place and atmosphere that many of his contemporaries have yet to master. There's a fair amount of violence, but Lehane handles it skillfully and even manages to inject it with some wry humour - a testament to his skill, and to the resilience of the characters he has created.
If you're looking for something to read this weekend, and you haven't tried Lehane yet, I strongly suggest you get yourself a copy of this book - you won't regret it!This article was first published on 27 Dec 2000.