Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

The challenge I’m most worried about completing is the TBR pile challenge. I suppose I’m keeping pretty well on track to finish the twelve books I chose to read this year, but I have a couple hefty ones coming up, and the last few months of the year always fly by so quickly. (And I’m behind on the Classics Challenge too, although technically, I only have two books left of the required categories.)

Anyway, I did manage to finish another book from my TBR list, Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. This is an odd choice for me. I read Lehane’s Shutter Island several years ago to review it for The Historical Novels Review. I thought it was captivating and creepy, and really well done. Somewhere around that same time, my husband and I saw the movie Mystic River. It’s one of those really great psychological thrillers that’s just painful to watch.

So, why read the book? I already know the ending. Doesn’t that spoil it for books of this genre?

The movie was very fast paced and had a lot going on. I’m sure I missed details then and have forgotten a lot more in the meantime. So I wanted to read the book to be sure I understood all the twists and turns. And I think Lehane is very good at what he does.

The basic set-up is that three boys, about 11 years old, were playing outside one afternoon. One boy, Sean Devine, was from a more stable, although not affluent, environment. Jimmy Marcus was his friend, mainly because their fathers worked together. Jimmy was a little criminal in the making. And then there was Dave Boyle, a hanger-on, who had attached himself to Jimmy with a kind of hero worship. Their play turned into rough housing. A car came down the street. A man got out who berated them. He showed them a badge. He ordered Dave into the car, where another man sat behind the wheel. He said he would take him home to his mother and tell her what he had been up to. Jimmy and Sean watched the car drive away.

Of course, the men in the car were not police. Dave was abducted by child molesters. He managed to escape four days later, but none of the boys would ever be the same.

The book fast-forwards twenty-five years. Sean is a homicide detective, separated from his wife. Jimmy is an ex-con, widower, remarried, with three daughters. The eldest is nineteen, and she is the reason he has left the life of crime, although he still associates with his old gang. Dave is married to a devoted woman and has a sweet son. But he’s never quite comfortable around people from the neighborhood who know about his past. And he’s haunted by what happened to him.

One night, Sean’s daughter, Katie, is preparing to elope with a boy from the neighborhood. She goes out drinking and dancing with two of her friends. She never makes it home. She’s found slaughtered in a local park the following day.

That same night, Dave had gone out to the local bars to kill time while his wife had a girls’ night. He did see Katie at one or two of the bars. He didn’t come home until around 3 am, and then he was covered in blood. He told his wife a story about a mugger that she knew didn’t make sense.

Sean is the detective assigned to the case.

The plot goes on from there as Sean and his partner try to unravel clues that lead them down unlikely paths to dead ends. At the same time, Jimmy is dealing with his own rage and grief, and taking matters into his own hands.

The book is as painful as the movie. The pace is quick, but it’s more detailed and easier to follow. (I remember being a bit confused about what was going on with Sean’s wife in the movie.) Yet overall, the movie was somehow grittier and more emotionally gripping. Maybe it was because the acting was so great. Or maybe it was because I didn’t know the ending when I saw the movie.

If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers (I’m not usually, but this movie had such good reviews we went to see it) this one is really well done.

I’ve completed 8/12 books for the TBR pile challenge, hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

1 comment:

  1. I've always wondered about this movie. Didn't know it was from a book. Thanks for the review.