I know this will surprise those who are aware of my love of mysteries and thrillers resplendent with twists and turns; however… I would have been happy if this book by Dennis Lehane would have continued with the interesting backstory / character study of our lead character, Rachel – without any mystery to be unravelled.
The book opens with Rachel shooting her husband (oops, sorry, #spoileralert) but I loved the stuff that came before that… how Rachel came to be; rather than what came after.
Since We Fell
by Dennis Lehane
on May 16th 2017
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself.
Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths.
Much of the early part of the book is spent familiarising ourselves with Rachel. She struggles after her mother is killed in a car crash, not because the pair were close… but because their relationship was complex. It was interesting that Lehane, writing from Rachel’s point-of-view, though in third person almost always refers to her mother by her full name, as if she’s an unknown entity requiring respect or reverence.
It surprised Rachel to realize just how little she was prepared for the loss of her mother. She had been a lot of things, most of them not positive in her daughter’s opinion, but she had always been so utterly there. And now she was so utterly–and so violently–gone. p 11
Her mother had also constantly promised to tell Rachel about her father, but continued to hold that information ransom until she died. She’s at college at the time but it’s something Rachel can’t let go and Lehane gives us a lot of insight into Rachel, through this quest which allows us to connect with her and come to care about her.
In some ways – from the outside anyway – it would seem as if Rachel lives a charmed life, but she struggles with anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. It’s something she’s managing when she starts to get a name for herself in journalism and travels to Haiti to cover an earthquake. Sebastian – her ambitious TV producer tells her it will make her career. It doesn’t. And ultimately it breaks her.
Lehane provides some detail about Rachel’s time(s) in Haiti but not to the point that we comprehend its significance in tipping Rachel back into depression and anxiety until she’s left with nothing. Again.
This sense of loss and abandonment is a common theme throughout the novel for Rachel and (understandably) guides much of her decision-making.
Thankfully someone who seems too good to be true (and isn’t that always a red flag?!) appears to rescue Rachel from herself… but despite evidence of their kind heart and devotion, she starts to get suspicious. I can’t / won’t say more but Lehane throws a few curve balls into the mix and includes some breadcrumbs for readers. And for Rachel.
I wasn’t entirely convinced by the latter part of the novel and actually would have been content just to follow Rachel’s ‘journey’. #sorrynotsorry Which, like I said is weird, cos since when did I start appreciating the journey as much as the destination?!
Having said that, some of Rachel’s evolution comes because of the stuff that happens late in the novel. Would she have made the breakthrough anyway? I’m not sure.
The strength of this book is its characters – and most specifically Rachel. She’s inherently flawed, on multiple levels but – for the most part – innately good and wants to see the best in others. (Which perhaps is why she’s so devastated by what happens in Haiti. Given her upbringing and her mother, she could have – but didn’t – start out by seeing the world through a bitter and twisted lens.)
Lehane is currently answering questions about the book on Goodreads and someone asked what comes first: the plot or the characters – and he responded it was the latter, and I think that’s very obvious. I understand he’s currently working on the screenplay for the novel which isn’t a surprise as I’m actually more familiar with his work on-screen than on the page (which I know sounds terrible for a suspense-loving book blogger).
But books (and movies) like Mystic River, Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone are typical of his dark atmospheric work and interestingly I find some of his brooding, melodic tales more reminiscent of Nordic noir than popular US thrillers.
I very much enjoyed this novel (despite the slightly OTT mystery at the end) and really must read more of Lehane’s work.
Since We Fell will be published in Australia by Hachette and available in coming days.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.