Dennis Lehane is possessed of a nigh-mystical ability to make me homesick for a home not of my birth but for one whose tough love hurled me through my twenties and into what passes for adulthood; each new Lehane book returns me to a living, breathing Boston alongside characters deserving of empathy and solace, a solace I know they will never find—it is, after all, a Dennis Lehane story. It is a Boston story.

While his latest, SINCE WE FELL, certainly made me homesick for that home of tough love, it did little else but frustrate me. After a turn that unnecessarily complicated matters and thrust the final third into a dense forest of incoherent plotting populated by once-fascinating people transformed into plot-driven guideposts, SINCE WE FELL read as though he was trying to extricate himself from a drastic narrative misstep on a tight deadline.

In SINCE WE FELL, Lehane branched out from his usual wheelhouse and for that we should cheer; however, the result of this particular branching is a failed, if noble, experiment, a failure in the manner that the final season of THE WIRE is a failure: even at its worst, it’s still better than most—but the disappointment is palpable.