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Small Mercies

CWA Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel, 2024

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349145778

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 2nd May 2024

Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Historical Fiction

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‘You’ll be lucky if you read a more engaging novel this year’ The Times Thriller of the Month

Small Mercies is thought-provoking, engaging, enraging, and can’t-put-it-down entertainment’ Stephen King

‘A jaw-dropping thriller… a resonant, unflinching story written by a novelist who is simply one of the best around’ Gillian Flynn

New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane returns with a masterpiece to rival Mystic River:
an all-consuming tale of revenge, family love, festering hate, and insidious power, set against one of the most tumultuous episodes in Boston’s history.

In the summer of 1974 a heatwave blankets Boston and Mary Pat Fennessey is trying to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors. Mary Pat has lived her entire life in the housing projects of ‘Southie’, the Irish American enclave that stubbornly adheres to old tradition and stands proudly apart.

One night Mary Pat’s teenage daughter Jules stays out late and doesn’t come home. That same evening, a young Black man is found dead, struck by a subway train under mysterious circumstances.

The two events seem unconnected. But Mary Pat, propelled by a desperate search for her missing daughter, begins turning over stones best left untouched – asking questions that bother Marty Butler, chieftain of the Irish mob, and the men who work for him, men who don’t take kindly to any threat to their business.

Set against the hot, tumultuous months when the city’s desegregation of its public schools exploded in violence, Small Mercies is a superb thriller, a brutal depiction of criminality and power, and an unflinching portrait of the dark heart of American racism.


A truly exciting, engaging and enraging narrative...Lehane's ear for dialogue and emotion is incisive so all the characters come alive by deft turns of phrase and mannerism. There is wit that keeps the novel's dark tragedy and violence from overpowering the reader. Historical detail is realised with an uncommon vibrancy. Clipped short chapters are not written but carved, so there is not one superfluous word. Lehane has considered every sentence...This is Dennis Lehane at the height of his writing powers; for to miss this novel would be unforgivable
Ali Karim, Shots Mag
This taut, gripping mystery is also a novel of soul-searching, for the author and reader alike
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Small Mercies is a jaw-dropping thriller, set in the fury of Boston's 1974 school-desegregation crisis, and propelled by a hell-bent woman who's impossible to ignore. Thought-provoking and heart-thumping, it's a resonant, unflinching story written by a novelist who is simply one of the best around
Gillian Flynn
Lehane is now well established as one of America's finest crime writers, who superbly blends uncompromising social history with uncompromising tales of what people driven to the limit will do. As ever, Small Mercies is populated with a wide-ranging collection of unforgettable people
Reader's Digest
His ability to create crystal clear portraits of humanity and then place them in the darker side of life is a writer's true gift
USA Today
At the heart of the book is a masterly psychological study of racism. Lehane (who was a writer on The Wire) provides top-notch dialogue, an absorbing mystery and an evocation of a historical moment foreshadowing America's 21st-century ethnic divide
Sunday Times, Thriller of the Month
Aficionados argue about who currently inhabits the top tier of American crime fiction...two names jostle for pole position: Dennis Lehane and Don Winslow. Both writers provide a perfect balance of detailed characterisation and state-of-the-nation underpinnings in their work...Lehane has said that his work is always about hope, however dark the scenarios, and that quality shines throughout this ambitious and multi-layered novel
Financial Times
I would follow Dennis Lehane anywhere
Lee Child
Dennis Lehane, the author of Mystic River, uses Mary Pat's search for answers to illuminate wider issues of racial tension, drug use and sexual inequality that still plague America. His real accomplishment, though, is his portrait of a mother both "irretrievably broken and wholly unbreakable", one he draws without smoothing over Mary Pat's own flaws and blinkered attitudes. You'll be lucky if you read a more engaging novel this year
The Times, April 2023 Thriller of the Month
[A] ferocious crime novel... Land[s] like a fist to the solar plexus... Full of booby traps, but the metaphorical kind that blow up futures instead of limbs... [As] in the best mysteries, the detective herself is cracked open and remade
New Yorker
Lehane writes expert, compelling thrillers that dive into mysteries much more universal and more urgent than just a whodunit; he's one of the game changers who smashed the imagined boundary between genre and literature, proving that we can have the best of both at once
Tana French
Without flinching, Dennis Lehane shines a lantern on a dark story, one the reader will not forget
James Lee Burke
Beautiful. I was blown away by how Dennis Lehane was able to bring such a deeply unfamiliar world into my heart. Small Mercies is hilarious and heartbreaking, infuriating and unforgettable
Jacqueline Woodson
'Small Mercies is thought provoking, engaging, enraging, and can't-put-it-down entertainment'
Stephen King
One of the great diabolical thriller kings
New York Times
A brutal, thrilling and relentlessly clear-eyed portrait of a city riven by fear and hatred
Mail on Sunday
A complex, multidimensional tragedy of epic proportions . . . Lehane straddles the line between historical fiction and thriller as dexterously as anyone, and this is his best work so far
Booklist (starred review)
Lehane's latest is a multifaceted affair, delivering an unsentimental account of a city at war with itself and a nuanced investigation of racism, class and cultural identity. Fundamentally, however, it's a powerful story of a woman who has stripped of everything she holds dear and who, with nothing left to lose, has nothing left to fear...Mary Pat Fennessy might be Dennis Lehane's single greatest creation'
Irish Times
Dennis Lehane peels back the layers of his characters like a sculptor finding the face of an angel in a block of stone. By a true master at the top of his game, Small Mercies is vintage Lehane. Beautiful, brutal, lyrical and blisteringly honest. Not to be missed
S.A. Cosby, author of Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears
Dennis Lehane is a supernova and this is a novel that will throw your entire goddamn solar system out of alignment. Lehane has gone from strength to strength but never has he been more truthful, more heartbreaking, more essential. In the midst of our racial nightmare Small Mercies asks some of the only questions that matter: 'What's gonna change? When's it gonna change? Where's it gonna change? How's it gonna change?' This book is impossible to put down and its dark radiances will stay with you a long, long time
Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of This Is How You Lose Her
Powerful, unforgettable...[a] remarkable novel about racism, violence, and parental vengeance
Library Journal (starred review)
Excellent and unflinching... [Small Mercies] has all the hallmarks of Lehane at his best: a propulsive plot, a perfectly drawn cast of working-class Boston Irish characters, razor-sharp wit and a pervasive darkness through which occasional glimmers of hope peek out like snowdrops in early spring
New York Times Book Review