Karen Nichols appears to have the picture perfect life, but she comes to Patrick Kenzie, PI, when she starts having problems with an aggressive stalker. (Quick side note: someone who reviewed this book on Goodreads kept referring to Karen’s “stocker” problem, which made it sound like someone was forcibly stocking her pantry). Patrick takes care of the stalker and goes on about his life. Six months later, Karen kills herself. Patrick takes it personally, assuming that he could have done something more to help her. As he investigates her suicide more and the string of bad events preceding her death, he finds himself chasing someone who specializes in making people’s lives so awful that they want to die.
It’s an entry in a series, which I didn’t know, but there are enough references to past events that I had no problem keeping up. Like many series, I suspect the earlier entries were much stronger. Prayers for Rain is a typical crime/thriller novel with all the usual stereotypes. There’s the sarcastic protagonist who doesn’t play by the rules and whose main qualifications for his job are Gut Feelings and connections to a variety of mob-like characters. Patrick’s main sidekicks are his ex-partner and ex-girlfriend Angie (spoiler alert: the ex part of both titles doesn’t stay long) and the hulk-like and psychotic Bubba. Random dream sequence to remind the hero about an overlooked clue? Check. Chasing wrong assumptions and invalid conclusions for the first half of the book? Check.
There’s a startling amount of violence on the part of the protagonists. It’s as if Lehane wants to keep reminding the readers that his protagonists are definitely not cops and they don’t play by the rules; although Patrick’s supposed to be a private investigator, he distributes justice as he sees fit like Boston’s own Batman. The result is just that the good guys are hardly better than the bad guys. Overall, it’s a decent enough crime thriller, but Lehane did a better job with twists and mystery in Shutter Island.