Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island


Dennis Lehane’s previous thriller “Mystic River” (2001) was a best-seller and was a much talked about work. “Shutter Island” is an intense mystery and psychological thriller that builds towards an explosive denouement. Both the aforementioned have been made into successful films. Britain’s best-selling crime novelist Ian Rankin provides a lovely appreciation that delves into the characters of Lehane’s private eye duo Patrick, Angie and Bubba.

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Boston-area author Dennis Lehane, made a name for himself with a series of books featuring private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro and tough-guy best friend Bubba. From A Drink Before the War (1994) to say Prayers for Rain (1999) showed that Lehane was a master of the form of psychological suspense. Then with his departure suspense thriller Mystic River (2001) we have a tale about childhood friends Sean, Jimmy and Dave that have there lives turned upside down by a event on the street. Twenty-five years later, Sean is a detective, while Jimmy has taken to crime. Jimmy’s daughter is found savagely killed and Sean is assigned the case. Sean must go back to find the answers in relationships that he thought had ended years ago. The ambition that brought this configuration of law and order story together with a sharp character and social mileniu study is an intriguing and explosive mix. It contains, as does the succeeding books such as Shutter Island a number of sub-plots that enrich and give backbone to the work.

Plotline: The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades.

Shutter Island (2003) has pace, evocative language and characterisation. It retains the law and order format but two new aspects are added to this Lehane work. Firstly, the book is set in the 1950s McCarthy period – a time with its own period values and attitudes – and this device allows the reader to digest and perceive things with a critical eye. Secondly, the devil’s island psychic centre is a clue to the tricks that may have been going-on with drug and other experiments, and altered reality. Shutter Island is an intense mystery and psychological thriller that builds builds towards an explosive denouement. It was released as a motion picture with Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams and Max Von Sydow in 2010. Britain’s best-selling crime novelist Ian Rankin provides a lovely appreciation that delves into the characters of Lehane’s earlier private eye duo Patrick, Angie and Bubba. The edition of 95 numbered and signed copies sold out on publication.

4.67 out of 5

3 reviews for Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Ian Rankin on June 17, 2012 :

    Extract from the Appreciation by Ian Rankin

    From the moment I picked up Dennis Lehane’s first novel, I knew I was going to like the guy. Its very title – A Drink Before the War – told me Lehane wasn’t just any old crime writer. That title is evocative, resonant, poetic. Nor did the opening let me down: a description of the narrator getting spruced up for a visit to an exclusive address. This nod to the opening of Chandler’s The Big Sleep indicated Lehane’s intent, an updating of the private eye genre which would nevertheless remain faithful to its roots, and strive to be every bit as poetic and eloquent as Chandler’s work. A tall order. But in the creation of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, Lehane proved he was equal to the task. Patrick drinks, knows how to take a beating, and likes Van Morrison and the Stones. He reminds me of someone close to my own heart. Were Rebus a Bostonian, I don’t doubt he’d enjoy an evening with Patrick, chasing ghosts over a few whiskies and a dose of Exile on Main Street. Then there’s Angie: leggy and beautiful, brainy and tough. Was there perhaps another nod here? After all, she shares her surname with Bruce Willis’s wife in Die Hard. Angie and Patrick grew up in the same neighbourhood – their ties go way beyond their line of business. The same is true of perhaps Lehane’s most chilling and memorable creation: Bubba. Bubba is hard the way Andrew Vachss’ heroes are hard, which means steel-plated. He’s a monster, but he’s also the best and oldest friend Patrick and Angie have. His role is not so much Fairy Godmother as Crazy Gunfather, there to watch over our heroes with his telescopic sights. In one memorable phrase, Patrick decides that talking to Bubba about morality would be like talking to a Big Mac about cholesterol. That’s another thing about Lehane: you can create great characters and pour them into an octane-guzzling engine of a plot, but it will all be in vain if you can’t write. Lehane can write. He can be poetic and brutal and funny, sometimes in the very same sentence. But for me, his real strength is the way he writes about neighbourhoods, about people who are connected by shared upbringings and values. … So here we are with another standalone: Shutter Island. And it represents yet another departure, being set on a mysterious island in the 1950s. In some ways it’s a classic, golden age set-up, not dissimilar to Ten Little Indians or many a haunted house horror movie.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by San Francisco Chronicle on June 17, 2012 :

    San Francisco Chronicle
    Anyone dazzled by Dennis Lehane’s previous psychological thriller, “Mystic River,” will be completely blown away by his new work, Shutter Island (Morrow; 325 pages; $25.95).
    This is really good stuff, a moody, deeply atmospheric mystery that combines the claustrophobia of an Agatha Christie whodunit with the creepiness of a good Stephen King yarn.
    U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is sent in 1954 to a remote island housing a hospital for the criminally insane. One of the patients — a woman who murdered her three children — has escaped, and it’s Daniels’ job to track her down.
    Needless to say, nothing on the island is as it seems, and it’s this constantly shifting sense of reality that gives “Shutter Island” its juice. Daniels is after a dangerous escapee, or has he come to the island with an ulterior motive? Daniels’ new partner, Chuck, is there to help, or is he?
    Lehane keeps the focus tight, leading readers down the same labyrinth of clues that Daniels must navigate, taking us ever closer to the heart of the island’s hospital and its haunting secrets.
    That the investigation is taking place amid complete insanity is known from the start. But the extent of the craziness is only gradually made clear, and Daniels is forced more than once to take stock of his own steadiness. By the end, he’ll find himself very much alone.
    “Shutter Island” has its share of chills, but the real pleasure is in its unrelenting tightening of the vise on both Daniels and readers. At times, the pressure is so fierce, you find yourself begging for relief.
    There isn’t any. Good luck putting this one down.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rating by Kirkus Reviews on June 17, 2012 :

    Kirkus Reviews
    A pair of US Marshals are sent to an island-bound institution for the criminally insane to find an escaped murderer – in Lehane’s lollapalooza of a corkscrew thriller.
    The Cold War is simmering and a hurricane approaching the Massachusetts coast when Edward Daniels and Charles Aule, his new partner, arrive at Ashecliffe Hospital in 1954, the morning after Rachel Solando, a housewife who drowned her three children, has gone AWOL. How did she get out of the third-floor room she’d been locked into two hours earlier without disturbing the door or windows or any of the three orderlies between her and the outdoors? Other false notes seem even more disturbing. Rachel has left behind a series of tantalizingly cryptic clues as to her fate. Chief of staff Dr. John Cawley, Rachel’s psychiatrist, refuses to share his notes on her, his personnel files, or the treatment files of Dr. Lester Sheehan, her group therapist, who left for his vacation on the ferry that brought Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule to the island. And the two marshals have brought baggage of their own: Teddy’s hunt for an arsonist he’s convinced is an Ashecliffe inmate and Chuck’s suspicion that the patients are being used as guinea pigs for some villainous new psychotropics. Inevitably, the hunters become the hunted, dissatisfied with reports that Rachel Solando has returned, determined to get to the bottom of the mind-altering experiments being carried out in the dread Lighthouse, separated from each other by natural and human assaults, and sought far more urgently by the ultra-secretive authorities than the woman they came to find. Will Cawley and company succeed in having them declared incompetent and preventing them from escaping?
    After an extraordinarily humane series of neo-noirs (Mystic River, 2001, etc.), Lehane has produced a brilliantly far-fetched page-turner that’s sure to be the most talked-about thriller of the year.

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