Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

Book Coverย Lehane, Dennis. Mystic River. New York: HarperTorch, 2002.

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I’ve been meaning to read Dennis Lehane for some time now, since I’ve managed to see and really like three movies based on his books. That’s an odd turn of events for me. Typically, I like to read a book first before I see the movie.

Mystic Riverย was the Lehane-based movie I’d seen longest ago (back when it came out), so it seemed like a good place to start. Oddly, although I remember it being one of those movies I was dragged to see by my husband that I ended up loving and that it had garnered much conversation between us, I didn’t remember much about it. Okay, I basically remembered nothing about it, if it was anything at all like the book.

My verdict? Dennis Lehane is a flat-out fantastic writer, and I must read more by him. This was much more than a mere page-turner after which you say, “Well, that was fun,” a nice bar of chocolate but nothing to sustain you. No, this was a very well-crafted, well-written novel, with plenty to chew on, and which surprises the reader (or, at least, this reader) because she finds herself sympathizing with those she tends to think of as the dregs of society.

It’s also a psychological study, although not the deepest of studies, but still more than a reader would expect from a standard thriller. Lehane has gotten inside his characters’ heads, exploring what makes them tick. How do boys become the men they become? Why do people make the choices they make? What happens to a kid who’s kidnapped by strangers and escapes, but who comes from a place and time where and when no one would think to provide him with the therapy he so obviously needs?

Finally, it’s a plainย good mystery. Among the things I’d forgotten about the movie was whodunit, and for the longest time (not believing the prime suspect could possibly have done it, because I’ve read enough mysteries to know that’s rarely the case), I didn’t have a clue. I kept thinking, “Oh, I hope he doesn’t ruin this by breaking Mystery Writer Rule #1: don’t introduce some surprise character at the end of the book who ends up being the murderer.” I won’t tell you whether he did or didn’t, but I will tell you that he’s so good at what he does, whether he breaks the rule or not doesn’t matter. If you like thrillers/mysteries, read it. You won’t be disappointed.