Monday, March 3, 2014

Beware the Solitary DrinkerBeware the Solitary Drinker by Con Lehane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Most of the plot of Cornelius Lehane's "Beware of Solitary Drinker" happens at night, in a bar, where people congregate to drink. Hence, it took me a while to get into the flow of the novel as I have never understood the allure of "public drinking" in a bar and I have visited such establishments maybe twice in over forty years of my adulthood. Mr. Lehane knows the environment well; after all he used to be a bartender for over a decade, and as he has an obvious literary talent, I am assuming that the night life in bars is portrayed accurately. Now I have even less of a reason to go to a bar to drink. It is a horribly sad place for horribly sad and lonely people. I definitely prefer to be sad and lonely on my own.

Brian McNulty, a bartender at Oscar's in Manhattan narrates the story. A pretty young woman who has been a frequent patron of the bar gets murdered and Brian, at first quite unwillingly, undertakes a private investigation. Towards the end, the novel turns from refreshingly quirky into a rather standard whodunit, and the climax of the plot, with two typically implausible cinematic scenes, is quite a bit ridiculous.

Good writing and some memorable fragments of prose save the novel for me. For instance, there's a wonderful scene of a visit to a newspaper magnate and Wall Street tycoon, a funny snippet of prose about the arrogance of rats on the streets of New York, and many others. Also, Mr. Lehane quite amusingly presents Brian's strongly anti-establishment opinions and his continual defense of the poor who are oppressed by the rich. I happen not to entirely disagree with the view, so I find the sociological layer of the novel quite interesting. And one last good thing about the author - he manages to finish the book in well under 300 pages. Bravo!

Three stars.

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