Dennis Lehane has written a number of excellent thrillers, most set in the Irish south end of Boston. Several popular movies have been made from these novels. I have enjoyed reading Lehane's books set in Boston. He has filled them with exciting plots and a good deal of history spanning several eras.
His latest book, Live by Night, begins in Boston, but a lot of the action takes place in Tampa, Florida. It is 1926, the jazz age is in full swing, and there is big money to be made in bootlegging. The main character, Joe Coughlin, son of a Boston police chief, is a tough street kid, a punk who makes some bad choices and compounds them by sloppy planning. As the story opens, he gets himself into trouble by daring to rob a speakeasy belonging to a local crime boss named Alert White. Not only is this a mistake, but he complicates it by becoming hopelessly infatuated with White's moll, Emma Gould.
Retribution is not far behind and after a severe beating by White's thugs, Coughlin lands in the notorious Charlestown prison. As in all prison stories, he needs a protector. In steps the powerful Mafia don, Maso Pescatore who is also serving a sentence.
When released from prison, Joe is sent to Tampa by Pescatore to head up a bootlegging operation. At this time Ybor City, the center of cigar manufacturing, is a dangerous place to set up business. Coughlin teams up with a local Cuban crime organization and business begins to boom, until he is controlling not only the corrupt city officials, but the illegal liquor business all along the Gulf Coast. He also falls in love with Graciela, a beautiful Hispanic woman. His success begins to cut into that conducted by the northern crime bosses and Albert White reappears. White and Coughlin share a mutual respect, despite their hatred of each other. Violence erupts with a lot of blood is shed between the rival gangs.
We know crime doesn't pay, so you can fill in the rest with your imagination. I did not enjoy this book as I had Lehane's Boston thrillers. It lacks the depth of the characters of previous books. Joe Coughlin seems shallowly drawn compared to the angst of some of the main characters in earlier books. There is more violence than plot depth, and the love relationships seem corny. That is not to say it is poorly written, it just didn't hold my interest.