MENACE CHARGES THE ATMOSPHERE OF this crackling thriller, which could have been scripted by Raymond Chandler had his beat been Boston's Back Bay instead of Brentwood, Calif.
As the cinematic mystery opens, Boston private eyes Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro reluctantly accept what sounds like a thankless assignment, the case of a psychiatrist who thinks her son is being stalked because she inadvertently ran afoul of the local Irish mob. But as the lifelong buddies begin to probe, and bodies start to pile up, the pair realize they're in danger from an evil far more treacherous (which we are not about to give away)—and that the only hope of escape lies in confronting some ugly secrets (ditto) in their shared past.
Lehane's plotting is heart-poundingly suspenseful. However, even it is topped by the novel's subtler attractions: a sense of place as palpable as the pungent tang of garlic in the North End air, haunting characters and a gracefully elegiac style that lingers long after you've closed the covers. (Morrow, $24)