Danny Coughlin and Luther Laurence are two men caught up in the mayhem. Danny is a police officer from an Irish neighbourhood, the son of a powerful police captain, and works undercover compiling information on anarchists in the city. He becomes a strong voice for reform as the Boston Police Department looks for fair pay and working conditions. The ensuing stand-off culminates in one of the most significant and chaotic strikes in American history.
In the second narrative strand of the novel, Luther Laurence, a cocksure African-American and baseball fanatic, falls into bad company having moved from Ohio to Oklahoma. Luther’s dodgy dealings with drug dealers result in a brutal shoot-up, of which he is the sole survivor. He flees Tulsa and ends up in Boston, in the employ of the Coughlin family and longing to return to his pregnant wife. Luther and Danny become cautious friends, and, in the end, rely on each other through the turbulence of Boston’s meltdown when it seems like they could lose everything.
The book covers a lot of material, and with each new story line characters decrease in significance. The book has atmosphere, a strong quality in Lehane, but suffers from a lack of authenticity. The result is that The Given Day reads like a thriller set in today’s America.
Racism, workers’ rights, crooked politics, the thin line between fighting terrorism and scaremongering: all are relevant issues. The problem is that this overlong, falsely proclaimed “epic” lacks the texture to lure you in and engage you with them.