Almost exactly three years ago — on January 12, 2013 — I reviewed The Given Day and Live by Night, the first two novels in Dennis Lehane’s historical trilogy. At the time it wasn’t clear whether this would really be a trilogy, although that’s how it looked:
Dennis Lehane is best known as a local mystery writer, but his last two books aren’t mysteries: they’re historical fiction. They loosely form the first two parts of a trilogy (actually, I’m just guessing…maybe there won’t be a third book in the series…or maybe there will be a third and more). The first book, The Given Day, focuses on a Boston police captain and his second son, a police officer and union leader, before and during the famous Boston police strike of 1919; the second, Live by Night, focuses on the captain’s third son, a gangster, mostly in Tampa during Prohibition.
So now it’s an honest three-volume trilogy (unlike, say, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy,” which contained at least five books). You can still enjoy World Gone By as a standalone novel, but it’s best of you have the background of The Given Day and Live by Night. So read them first. World Gone By continues to take place in Tampa (and a bit in Batista-era Cuba), but now it’s during the second World War, and we have a somewhat new set of gangsters, some fictional and some real. The mob connections with the Mafia are dominant and explicit (many references to “Our Thing”), and the level of violence is unsurprisingly high. So don’t read it if you can’t deal with violence. But Lehane is a great writer of character and plot, so he’s worth reading for those features alone. And he’s from Dorchester!