Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Book Review: Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane

If you have never read any of his novels but have heard of Dennis Lehane, it is probably because he is the author of "Mystic River", which was made into an Oscar winning film by Clint Eastwood. Knowing that he wrote that novel, which was made into such a fine movie made me want to read something else that he has written. "Shutter Island" is his most recent novel, published in 2003. I must confess that "Shutter Island" blew me away. Lehane is immensely talented.

In the summer of 1954 U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule come to Ashecliffe Hospital on Shutter Island to investigate the escape of an inmate/patient. This hospital is for the criminally insane, and the two Marshals are searching for Rachel Solando, a convicted murderer guilty of killing her three children. When Aule and Daniels begin investigating the escape it is readily apparent that nothing is as it seems. Rachel Solando was barefoot when she escaped and yet made it out of a locked room, down a guarded hallway, and outside the compound on an island comprised of swampland and a rocky cliff. How could this have happened? Why is the hospital administration so secretive? Are there secret government experiments being performed on the patients?

"Shutter Island" is filled with questions and the story becomes more and more compelling as it moves along. The story is told with sharp, realistic dialogue and it is not long before the reader questions exactly what is happening, except that the confusion is so beautiful and engrossing that you have to keep reading to see how this will all play out. Lehane keeps throwing twists on the reader, but he does so in a realistic way that is very consistent with the story. It wasn't until I had reached the end and the reality of "Shutter Island" was revealed that I realized just how important the beginning of this novel is and just how well crafted a story "Shutter Island" is. Lehane connects all the pieces of the story together so that everything makes sense by the end. The ending, while a surprise, doesn't come out of left field. Lehane leads to it, builds up to it.

"Shutter Island" was one of the best novels that I have read this year, and was so good that I want to read everything else that he has written. Some novels are just that good, and this is one of them. Give it a try.

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