cover image Small Mercies

Small Mercies

Dennis Lehane. Harper, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-212948-2

Set during the summer of 1974, this superior crime drama from bestseller Lehane (Since We Fell) explores deep-rooted racism in South Boston. While the community primes for a series of rallies organized by mob boss Marty Butler against school desegregation, 42-year-old single mother Mary Pat Fennessy is preoccupied with the disappearance of her rebellious, 17-year-old daughter, Jules. Though Jules’s friends claim she started walking home around midnight, mistrust and animosity toward Jules’s doltish boyfriend and a drug dealer Mary Pat holds responsible for her late son’s overdose bring out a mother’s frustration and rage. Her ensuing acts attract the interest of two detectives who are investigating the mysterious death of a Black man at a nearby subway station. The unwanted attention Mary Pat draws to the neighborhood threatens Butler’s business dealings, making him and his close-knit crew keen to put an end to her search. That Mary Pat is good with a pistol and capable of beating up young guys may stretch credulity, especially as there’s no mention of guns and fighting in her past, but the action builds to a gloriously tense and discomforting finale. Readers will be left feeling battered and scarred. Agent: Ann Rittenberg, Ann Rittenberg Literary. (Apr.)