Fans of Dennis LeHane have come to expect crime novels steeped in reality and filled with intense psychological twists. He’s written over a dozen novels, several of which were adapted into major films with star-studded casts. His signature style of storytelling is evident in his works, even if the narrative has shifted from his debut investigative detective series to gritty crime dramas and historical noirs. There’s always a heartbreaking human element that brings his characters to life and makes them memorable.
If you’ve ever wanted to read LeHane’s work, here are six must-read novels to get you started.
U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels and his partner, Chuck Aule, have been called out to Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane to investigate a missing patient. The murderess Rachel Solando somehow escaped her locked cell and managed to avoid constant surveillance. Now, they believe she’s hiding somewhere on the isolated and barren island. But when a hurricane forces Daniels and Aule to stay in the asylum, they stumble on dark secrets involving patient experimentation and unethical surgeries. The more Daniels uncovers, the more he’s convinced that this case is far more than what it seems. And his own dark secrets threaten to become exposed.
Shutter Island is arguably one of LeHane’s most popular novels thanks to the film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. It’s a propulsive psychological thriller filled with shocking twists and a creepy atmosphere.
Twenty-five years ago, a car pulled into their neighborhood and changed the lives of three boys. Now, Sean is a homicide detective, Jimmy owns a corner store despite his criminal record, and Dave is barely keeping his marriage together as the urges to do terrible things get harder to hold back. But when Jimmy’s daughter is murdered, Sean is the detective assigned. And while Jimmy wants to resort to his own methods of justice, Dave has to explain why he came home covered in blood the night Jimmy’s daughter died.
Another book adapted to film with an all-star cast, Mystic River mixes intense emotional stakes with a propulsive psychological thriller, making it an unforgettable read. Many LeHane fans consider it one of his best books.
A Drink Before the War
Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are private investigators working in South Boston. They take on what looks like a straightforward case: find Jenna Angeline, a woman who allegedly stole confidential documents from a local politician. As their investigation takes them through the streets of Boston, they discover a complicated web of extortion, murder, and child prostitution that extends all the way into the highest reaches of the government. Finding Jenna was the easy part. Now they have to stay alive.
A Drink Before the War was LeHane’s debut and is the first in a six-book series. It launched his career of weaving real-world horrors into explosive crime dramas and is a must-read for anyone who loves gritty investigative stories.
The Given Day
Even though beat cop Danny Coughlin is the son of a most powerful and beloved police captain, he has his own ideas of how justice should be handled. He joins a newly formed Union and follows leads to hunt down violent radicals. Luther Lawrence works for the Coughlin family, desperate to escape a crime boss in Tulsa and get back to his pregnant wife. Both men struggle to define themselves in a society that’s quickly shifting. And their choices will define what happens on that inevitable, given day when change happens.
Set just after the First World War, The Given Day follows two Boston families through the turbulent political and social unrest of the time. It’s the first in a trilogy and takes the reader through an epic saga they won’t soon forget.
Since We Fell
After journalist Rachel Child has a breakdown on-air, she becomes extremely reclusive, preferring to lock herself away from the public. But life isn’t all that bad. At least, she has a perfect marriage. Until a rainy afternoon, when a random encounter unravels everything. Now her marriage is falling apart—and Rachel along with it. As she’s drawn into a conspiracy that threatens her sanity, Rachel has to find the strength to find the truth and confront her deepest fears. Or lose everything trying.
A slower-paced book, Since We Fell focuses on profound psychological insight and takes the reader into a tense, heart-breaking journey of one woman fighting for control of her mind.