Title:

Mystic River

Author:

Dennis Lehane

Category:

Mystery / Thriller

Rating:

Date Reviewed:

April 29, 2005

I have the impression that Dennis Lehane is a miserable person. He writes about sorrow, fear, anger, despair, loneliness - all the negative emotions - so effectively that he must suffer from all those same emotions himself. How else could he know these feeling so well to write such an authentic sounding story? Lehane gets into the head of each of his well drawn characters and lets you know exactly what they are thinking, and usually, it isn't happy thoughts.

But despite all the suffering by the characters, this is not painful book to read. It is a real page turner. A horrible murder has been committed, and the neighborhood is aghast, the relatives ready to explode in anger. I didn't see the movie, but wouldn't it be difficult to display on the screen what the characters are thinking? The strength of this book is Lehane's description of the inner thoughts of each character in various circumstances. I don't know how to write a better endorsement - Lehane's characters seem genuine, the portrayal of their emotions (usually in times of stress) is masterful.

The novel opens with three young boys playing in the street. A car pulls up, and two thugs accost the lads. Fooled into thinking that the occupants of the car are policeman, one of the boys climbs into the car. Of course, the thugs are not policemen, and the boy is missing for four harrowing days before he manages to escape. Of course, he is psychologically scarred. Lehane describes the dread and the revulsion of everyone involved.

Jump forward 25 years in time, and the three boys are now grown. They are no longer friends, but they live in the same neighborhood. One of the boys has become a homicide detective. Another, the owner of a coffee/danish shop (he renounced a life of crime after doing jail time so that he would never again miss being with his precious daughter), the third boy, the molested tormented soul, has married and has a son of his own, and on the surface seems to have a normal life. Until the late night when he comes home covered with blood that is not his own, telling alibis that convince no one. The precious daughter of the ex-con is senselessly murdered that same night. So even though the three boys have drifted as they grew older, their lives now are on collision course.

This novel isn't a classic whodunit - I figured out who killed who before it is revealed in the plot - but it is a masterpiece in its depiction of humanity. How can you not admire Lehane's description of the anxious wife who deeply loves her husband but fears he is a murderer, and now is afraid for her son? There is some tense scenes here, you will almost cry out aloud: "No, don't do that" because you care about their actions and the plot developments. Maybe I should rent the movie, but it would have to be a genuine classic to live up to this writing.