Saturday, July 03, 2010

Sacred by Dennis Lehane (Avon Books 1997)

Four years ago, after a particularly lucrative case involving insurance fraud and white-collar extortion, I went to Europe for two weeks. And what struck me most at the time was how many of the small villages I visited - in Ireland and Italy and Spain - resembled Boston's North End.

The North End was where each successive wave of immigrants had left the boat and dropped their bags. So the Jewish and then the Irish and finally the Italians had called this area home and given it the distinctly European character it retains today. The streets are cobblestone, narrow, and curve hard around and over and through each other in a neighborhood so small in physical area that in some cities it would barely constitute a block. But packed in here tight were legions of red and yellow brick rowhouses, former tenements co-opted and restored, and the odd cast-iron or granite warehouse, all fighting for space and getting really weird on top where extra stories were added after "up" became the only option. So clapboard and brick rise up from what were once mansard roofs, and laundry still stretches between opposite fire escapes and wrought-iron patios, and "yard" is an even more alien concept than "parking space."

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