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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mystic River


***** Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. Suspense.









I saw the movie back in 2003, and though I thought the movie was excellent, it was way too uncomfortable for me to even consider reading the book, although I absolutely loved Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro mystery novels. In 2003, I had an 18-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son, and it just hit too close to home.

Five years later, it's not quite as personal, and since I'd finally finished the last Kenzie/Gennaro book in my TBR pile, I decided to brave Lehane's other work.

Three 10-year-old boys--Sean, Jimmy, and Dave--are playing outside when a car drives up and two men posing as police officers abduct Dave. He escapes three days later, but their lives are irrevocably changed.

Twenty-five years later, they've all gone their own ways, but they're reunited when Jimmy's 19-year-old daughter Katie is brutally murdered. The same night she was murdered, Dave comes home covered in blood and tells his wife a not-very-convincing story about a mugging. Sean is the cop investigating the murder.

Mystic River is the mystery of who killed Katie. If it was Dave, why did he do it? And if it wasn't Dave, who was it, and what did Dave do that night? The clues are subtle, and gradually doled out. Even though there are scenes in Dave's point of view, it's still not obvious whether he did it or not until near the end. What makes that impressive is that Lehane plays fair with the reader, giving us all the clues we need to figure it out, and never violating the characters' points of view.

More than the mystery, though, Mystic River is the story of three people, and the community around them: how events changed and shaped them; how their lives connected, separated, and then connected again; the kind of men they became and how that in turn determined how they responded to later events. Their relationships, their families, their careers: it's all been affected by the abduction and how the boys they were reacted to it.

The ending of the book is likewise not just the simple revelation of the killer. The denouement is the third catalyst that changes the characters and the course of their lives--the first being Dave's abduction and the second Katie's murder. Whodunit is logical and emotional, and right.

Good as the movie was, the book is of course more involved, and we delve much more deeply into the characters' psyches. I'm very glad I read it... I'm also glad I waited. The intensity of the book is such that I'd have identified even more strongly with the parents of the abducted boy and the murdered girl, and my own emotions would have interfered with my enjoyment of an excellent story.


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Comments:
I've got this on Mt. TBR. I might even get to it by the end of the year! (that fact is shocking)
 
LOL! Boy, do I know how that is. My TBR is also too large to be called just a "pile" anymore.

Just don't read this at a time when you're under stress--it's very intense.
 
I haven't read the book, but the movie was just amazing...
 
What resonated most strongly for me is Lehane's accurate, natural dialogue; there are authors who have their characters say all kinds of unnaturally clever (or awkward, unbelievable, obtuse, etc.) phrases. I spent a year in Jamaica Plain and every single Lehane novel I've read since is colored by those memories, wandering through the neighborhood just short of gentrification and listening to everything going on around me.
 
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