Book Review: World Gone By, Dennis Lehane

You already know Lehane’s reputation as an outstanding organized crime writer. Well, don’t expect to be disappointed now.


World Gone By was a fast, fun read. As someone who had not read any of the other Joe Coughlin novels, I was concerned that I would be thoroughly lost. Fortunately, Lehane had the perfect amount of reflection, dialogue, and narration to give a newcomer a clear understanding of the events of past novels without having to read them over again to become “in the loop.”

I enjoyed Joe as a character because he is the type of person who doesn’t go looking for trouble–unlike some of the hotheads in this novel!–but does handle it to the best of his ability when it comes his way.

I admired and respected Joe’s loyalty to his son and the lengths he was willing to go to in order to protect him from psychological and physical harm (though that didn’t work out too well in the end). Being a social worker, I was also fascinated by Joe’s visual hallucinations.

I was curious about Joe’s motivations (beyond the obvious!)¬†for becoming involved with a married woman when he himself was so deeply in love with his own wife. It seemed that he would have abhorred the idea of interfering in any manner with the union between a husband and wife after having lost that relationship so tragically. Then again, maybe that’s just me projecting my ideals onto Joe!

I didn’t believe that the gore was anything over the top, but it was realistic and necessary to the gravity of the story, especially when things got a little light or comfortable. The details seemed to say, “Even though this is happening in this context, remember that this is death. Real death, not that fairy tale stuff.”

The final scenes between Joe and Dion were absolutely heartbreaking in so many ways. The idea that a friend had betrayed you, that you would have to be the one to exterminate someone you considered family, and that your son would see you do it and not understand at all why–not that you necessarily understand why, really–was a tense and vivid scenario that I enjoyed reading.

I’m still curious as to how exactly Thomas came to have followed them so far anyway. I thought that he was being looked after at the house. And it seemed like someone with Joe’s (and Dion’s) background would be able to tell if he were being followed. Then again, maybe the stress of the context was throwing his normal instincts off.

This is a great read for lovers of crime novels and casual readers of any genre. If you fell in love with Mystic River and Shutter Island like I did, you’re going to love World Gone By just as much!


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