For personal reasons, I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between fathers and daughters. Sure, expand it to fathers and sons and even to parents and their children. For the record, I was lucky in that I was close to both of my parents and not a
day goes by that I don't miss them both and wish I could share what is going on in our lives.
But right now, I am thinking about fathers and daughters because that is what this blog is about.
In their latest novels, Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane not only deliver enthralling plots but also their individual look at fathers and daughters add a richness to the subtext of their novels. I've gone on record before as praising both Connelly and Lehane, whose novels both often land high on my best of lists. And both maintain their high standards with Connelly's The Reversal and Lehane's Moonlight Mile.
In The Reversal, Connelly's series hero Harry Bosch is dealing with the daily challenges of fatherhood for the first time. And to make the "challenge" even harder, Bosch's daughter is a young teenager. During the course of The Reversal, Bosch tries to find evidence that will prove a convicted murderer who was recently exonerated truly is guilty.
That plot alone would be enough challenge but Bosch also is learning how to be a father because he has only recently taken custody of his 14-year-old daughter, as well as learning how to be part of an extended family. Neither will come easy.
Lehane returns to his career-making series about Boston private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro in Moonlight Mile. Patrick and Angie, now married and the parents of a 4-year-old daughter, are pulled back into the case of Amanda McCready who was 4 years old when she was kidnapped in Gone Baby Gone (1998). Now 16 years old, Amanda has gone missing again. It's not lost on Patrick that his own child is the same age that Amanda was when she was kidnapped more than a dozen years ago.
(For a more in-depth look at Lehane, check out the profile of him in the Winter issue of Mystery Scene.)
Rather than take away from the gritty plots, each author makes their hero's homelife a vital part of the story, showing the humanity in each detective. Harry and Patrick have more to lose now that they are fathers and each has to think about their child's safety,
wrestle with child care issues and how to show affection when their jobs often require stoicism.
It's especially interesting to see the stages of fatherhood that both Connelly and Lehane depict. Connelly and Lehane are both fathers and the age of their own daughters are close to that of their characters' daughters. Connelly nails the push-pull relationship of a teenager with her father, the need for independence and the need for supervision.
Lehane's scenes with Patrick and his daughter show goofiness that dads can be with their little ones and yet in several scenes Patrick acknowledges that fatherhood isn't easy.
Never once do Connelly or Lehane allow these scenes to become overly sentimental or maudlin. The scenes fit well in the course of the novel and add to each novel's richness. One time, decades ago, readers never had an inkling about a detective's private life because they didn't have one. Thank goodness times have changed.
In these two terrific novels, both Connelly and Lehane have each offered a tribute of sorts to fathers and daughters. I know I thought about my own late father as I read each.