All 30+ Dennis Lehane Books in Order [Ultimate Guide]

Dennis Lehane is most well-known for his novels Mystic River and Shutter Island, thanks in part to the star-studded movie adaptations of each book. But there are many more Dennis Lehane books in order including two series and several short stories.

Lehane writes mystery thrillers that vary from psychological thrillers like Shutter Island to more crime thrillers like Mystic River. However, even his crime thrillers contain significant themes analyzing the human psyche and the motivations behind despicable acts of violence.

About Dennis Lehane

Most of the Dennis Lehane books in order take place in Boston with only a few exceptions. Lehane grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, which features in many of his books. This lived experience gives Lehane a credibility and understanding in his writing that makes his stories pulsate with believability.

He is regarded as one of the best writers in the thriller genre and Gillian Flynn credits Mystic River and Dennis Lehane for helping her become a writer. While we’ll dive into the adaptations of Lehane’s books further down, he has also worked on The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Bloodline, Mr. Mercedes, and more.

But Lehane’s latest thriller delves into a dark chapter of Boston’s history.

Lehane was nine years old during the summer of 1974 when the city launched its plan to desegregate the public school system through busing. Lehane says the rage he witnessed as a young child during that period became a part of him and it wasn’t until he began writing Small Mercies that he understood where the rage came from.

While Lehane’s books oscillate from crime thrillers to psychological thrillers and take place in historical and contemporary settings, in all of the books a crime has taken place at some point. Lehane says, however, that no matter how dark his books become, there is always a message of hope persevering in his writing.

Collectively, Lehane has sold more than 10 million copies around the world and his books have been translated into 37 languages. However, Small Mercies may be his last novel. Lehane says that writing prose has become more difficult for him with each successive book and if Small Mercies does end up being his last novel, he thinks it is a good final foray.

Book-to-Movie Adaptations

In addition to his successful career as a novelist, Dennis Lehane has also found success in Hollywood both in the adaptations of his books, as a screenwriter, and as a producer. There have been five adaptations of Lehane’s books for the screen.

The first was an adaptation of Mystic River by the same name in 2003. The cast includes Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Emmy Rossum, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. Clint Eastwood was the director for the movie.

Mystic River was nominated for six Oscars in 2004 and won two: Sean Penn won for best actor in a leading role and Tim Robbins won for best actor in a supporting role.

The next Dennis Lehane adaptation was Gone, Baby, Gone in 2007. It again had another star-studded cast with Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, and others. Ben Affleck was both the director and a co-writer on the script.

Gone, Baby, Gone was nominated for one Oscar for Amy Ryan’s performance as a supporting actress.

Then came the adaptation of Shutter Island in 2010 with Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading role. It was another star-studded production with Emily Mortimer, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams joining DiCaprio. Martin Scorsese was the director.

The fourth adaptation is one that Lehane did himself: The Drop in 2014. Tom Hardy stars in the leading role alongside James Gandolfini, for what would become Gandolfini’s final role before his death. Noomi Rapace also stars in The Drop.

Finally, the fifth adaptation from Lehane’s bibliography was another collaboration with Ben Affleck in 2016. Affleck was the director, writer, and star in the production of Live by Night. Other members of the cast include Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, and Elle Fanning.

Dennis Lehane Books in Order

Kenzie and Gennaro Books

Our list of the Dennis Lehane books in order begins with his debut which was the beginning of his Kenzie and Gennaro series. The series takes place in Boston and follows two private investigators, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro.

Each book in the series features the investigation of a new crime, but there is character progression and development from book-to-book. For that reason, reading the books in order of publication will provide the best reading experience and avoid any spoilers.

  1. A Drink Before the War (1994)
  2. Darkness, Take My Hand (1996)
  3. Sacred (1997)
  4. Gone, Baby, Gone (1998)
  5. Prayers for Rain (1999)
  6. Moonlight Mile (2010)

Coughlin Books

While his first series was contemporary mystery fiction, Lehane’s second series is a historical fiction trilogy. These three books follow the Coughlin family through three decades primarily in Boston.

The series begins with Danny Coughlin, the son of a beloved Boston police captain, at the end of the First World War during violent and turbulent times. The next book follows Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of the prominent Boston police captain who has turned his back on his upbringing for a life of crime. It takes place during the 1920s during the era of prohibition.

Then the final book takes place in the early 1940s again following Joe Coughlin as he faces a dangerous threat. There will be spoilers for the second book in the final book. For that reason, it is best to read the Coughlin trilogy in order of publication.

  1. The Given Day (2006)
  2. Live by Night (2012)
  3. World Gone By (2015)

Standalone Books

However, some of Dennis Lehane’s most well-known books are his standalones. In fact, three of his five standalones have been adapted into popular movies.

At the core of each of these novels there is a mystery, but his standalone novels also encompass themes of gothic horror and psychological thrillers. The books take place in both contemporary and historical settings, usually in the Boston area.

  1. Mystic River (2001)
  2. Shutter Island (2003)
  3. The Drop (2014)
  4. Since We Fell (2017)
  5. Small Mercies (2023)

Graphic Novel

There has been one graphic novel adaptation of Lehane’s works and this is of the popular Shutter Island. Unfortunately, it is now out of print, but second-hand copies are available online.

  1. Shutter Island (2003) (Out of Print)

Collection

Dennis Lehane has also published one collection throughout his career. The collection features five short stories and a play that explores themes of sin and redemption, loss and longing, flesh and blood.

  1. Coronado (2006)

Short Story

If you enjoy shorter pieces of fiction, there is one Dennis Lehane short story available outside of the anthologies he has contributed to.

  1. Red Eye (2014) (With Michael Connelly)

Anthologies

Finally, Dennis Lehane has contributed to several anthologies throughout his career. Most of these anthologies are still in print and collect stories from some of the best contemporary thriller authors.

  1. The Mighty Johns (2002) (Out of Print)
  2. Boston Noir (2009)
  3. By Hook or By Crook and 27 More of the Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year (2010)
  4. The Best American Mystery Stories 2010 (2010)
  5. Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance (2012)
  6. In Pursuit of Spenser (2012)
  7. Boston Noir 2 (2012)
  8. USA Noir (2013)
  9. FaceOff (2014)
  10. Trouble in the Heartland (2014)
  11. The Best American Mystery Stories 2015 (2015)
  12. Exit Wounds (2019)
  13. Collectibles (2021)
  14. The Best American Mystery and Suspense Stories 2022 (2022)

A Summary of Dennis Lehane Books in Order

Below you will find the summaries of Dennis Lehane’s standalone books and his Kenzie and Gennaro series. This will help demonstrate the themes that Lehane frequently uses in his writing and his blend of gothic horror and mystery thriller.


Standalone Books

Mystic River Dennis Lehane Books in Order

1. Mystic River

Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were good friends when they were children. But then one day when the three boys were playing, Dave was abducted and sexually molested in a horrific manner for days. It changed the lives of all three boys forever.

Now it is 25 years later, and they are grown men. Sean is a homicide detective, Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store, while Dave is trying to keep his marriage together and his demons at bay.

Then Jimmy’s daughter is murdered and Sean is assigned to the case. Sean must try to manage Jimmy who wants to solve the murder with his own brutal vigilante justice. He must also figure out why Dave came home the night of the murder covered in someone else’s blood.


Shutter Island Book Cover

2. Shutter Island

In 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule travel to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane on Shutter Island. They’re there to investigate the disappearance of a patient.

Rachel Solando is missing somewhere on the island even though she had been kept under lock and key with constant surveillance. A killer hurricane is bearing down on the island as the strange case takes on darker, more sinister shades.

There are hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves. No one will escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. Not even Teddy Daniels.


The Drop Dennis Lehane

3. The Drop

Three days after Christmas, a lonely bartender is searching for a reason to live. He rescues an abused puppy from a trash can and also meets a damaged woman looking for something to believe in.

As their relationship grows, they cross paths with the Chechen mafia; a man grown dangerous with age and thwarted hopes; two hapless stick-up artists; a curious cop; and the original owner of the puppy, who wants his dog back.


Since We Fell Book Cover

4. Since We Fell

Rachel Childs is a former journalist who is now living as a recluse after a mental breakdown while on-air. However, she is still living an ideal life in all other aspects with her ideal husband. That is, until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes her ideal life to come apart at the seams.

Her marriage falls apart and so does Rachel. She is sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness. Through it all, she must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths.


Small Mercies Dennis Lehane Books in Order

5. Small Mercies

In the summer of 1974, Boston was rife with tension, violence, and rage. The city was desegregating its public schools with a busing system, which erupted neighborhoods into violence and hatred. Amid this environment, Mary Pat Fennessy began asking questions that some do not take kindly to.

On the same night that a young Black man is found dead under suspicious circumstances, Mary Pat’s daughter Jules was out late and didn’t come home. The two events seem unconnected.

But Mary Pat is desperately searching for her daughter and has nothing left to lose. She begins asking questions that the chieftain of the Irish mob, Marty Butler, does not take kindly to and neither do the men who work for him. This is a story of criminality and power against an unflinching portrayal of American racism.


Kenzie and Gennaro Books

A Drink Before the War Kenzie and Gennaro

1. A Drink Before the War

A group of powerful Boston politicians is willing to pay Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro big money for a seemingly small job. They need them to find a cleaning woman who stole secret documents from them and has now gone missing.

But Kenzie and Gennaro quickly learn that this crime is no ordinary theft. This is a case about justice, about right and wrong. But in Boston finding the truth isn’t just a dirty business, sometimes it can be deadly.


Darkness Take My Hand Dennis Lehane

2. Darkness, Take My Hand

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro’s latest client is a prominent Boston psychiatrist who is on the run from a vengeful Irish mob. The two private investigators grew up on the mean streets of blue-collar Dorchester, so they know about cold-blooded retribution and have seen the darkness that lives in the hearts of the unfortunate.

But even they are not ready for the evil that is to come. Secrets that have long lain dormant erupt, setting off a chain of violent murders that will stain everything, including the truth.


Sacred Kenzie and Gennaro

3. Sacred

A grieving woman has disappeared, so has the detective hired to find her, and a lot of money… That is when Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro enter the picture. They’ve seen it all and come out the other side to tell the tale.

But this case leads them into unexpected territory. It is a place of lies and corruption, where trusting anyone could get them killed, and where nothing is sacred.


Gone Baby Gone Dennis Lehane Books in Order

4. Gone, Baby, Gone

Dorchester is a rough and tumble neighborhood in Boston that is no place for the innocent or weak. It is a territory defined by hard heads and even harder luck. Its streets are littered with the debris of broken families, hearts, and dreams.

And now one of its youngest is missing.

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro don’t want the case. But after pleading from the child’s aunt, they open an investigation that will ultimately risk everything — their relationship, their sanity, their lives — to find a lost little girl.


Prayers for Rain Dennis Lehane

5. Prayers for Rain

Patrick Kenzie thought Karen Nichols was an innocent, but when she commits suicide six months later, he is left wondering what could have changed for her.

As a result, Kenzie begins investigating with the help of Angela Gennaro and his friend, the lethally unbalanced Bubba Rogowski. Kenzie is entering into psychological warfare with a brilliant sociopath. Instead of killing his victims, this sociopath prefers to make them wish they were dead instead.

The stakes grow larger and more personal as the trio find themselves in a losing battle with an enemy the law can’t touch. He is always one step ahead, gradually discovering their weaknesses, their loves, and is determined to tear their world apart.


Moonlight Mile Kenzie and Gennaro

6. Moonlight Mile

Twelve years ago, Amanda McCready was four years old and went missing. The desperate pleas from her aunt led Kenzie and Gennaro to pick up the case and risk everything to find the young girl. But what they did was return her to a neglectful mother and a broken home.

Now sixteen years old, Amanda has gone missing again. She is a stellar student, brilliant yet aloof, and seemingly destined to escape her upbringing. But her aunt is seeking out Kenzie’s help once again with fears of the worst sort imaginable.

The case always troubled them, so Kenzie and Gennaro revisit it once again. They enter a world where motives and allegiances constantly shift, and mistakes are fatal. They will question whether it is possible to do the wrong thing and still be right, or to do the right thing and still be wrong. The sins of yesterday don’t always stay buried and the crimes of today might end their lives.


Final thoughts on Dennis Lehane books in order

The Dennis Lehane books in order are atmospheric psychological thrillers that do not shy away from the horrors of humanity. Lehane does not flinch away from the atrocities people are capable of and instead writes raw, harrowing, and powerful stories about human nature. He most often writes books that take place within his hometown of Boston, so if you are familiar with its neighborhoods, you will recognize many of the areas he describes.

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