Thursday, April 1, 2010
After I read and reviewed my first Dennis Lehane book, The Given Day, several bloggers told me Mystic River was his best work. I'd considered picking it up, but was waylaid by the audio of Shutter Island, inspired by the release of the movie. So here I am, my third Lehane book, and on the verge of adding him to the very prestigious list of authors who are _____ - worthy. (Insert appropriate word...crush, drool, panty, obsession, whatever feels right.)
The movie received such huge accolades, with its star-studded cast and trunkload of Oscar nominations and two statues, it was hard not to at least have a clue about the plot. There are some friends, there is a murder, something about molestation. I must have known that I would read the book someday though, because I managed to keep the important spoilers at bay and with childlike enthusiasm blasted through the five audio discs in a couple of days.
I was right, there are some friends. They grew up together in the old neighborhood, and were all permanently altered when one of them was kidnapped off the street in broad daylight, held captive and molested over a period of four days before he escaped. They grew up and apart, one becoming a policeman, one a mob boss, and one a sometimes-employed underachiever. Their lives intersect again when one of their daughters is murdered. The friends (and their wives) are forced to consider some difficult questions. Can anyone be trusted? This is a study in human frailties, in all of its disturbing hopelessness.
First and foremost, I was horrified when I learned that I had gotten hold of an abridged version of the audio, hence the reason why it is only five discs long. (I really wish I hadn't known.) Upon further investigation, I was not able to find an unabridged version anywhere, except in the form of a cassette. *Sigh* With that being said, though, it still worked. Damaged characters, emotional angst, all in five discs. Unlike The Given Day, which seemed a few discs too long with description and plots to spare, this story was abrupt, concise, focused and raw. Could there have been more character development? Yes absolutely, and perhaps there was in the unabridged 10 discs. These people were complex and messy, and we barely scratched the surface with some of them. I was not left unfulfilled however. Lehane packs so much intensity in such a small space, you finish the book with a long release of breath you had been holding for awhile. A long "hooooh"! And you walk away done. It is dark. It is murky and thick. I'm not thinking you would want it longer than it is.
The narrator, David Strathairn, held his own. He is no Tom Stechschulte, who took the audio of Shutter Island and made it into a masterpiece. He is no Simon Vance, who makes my ears happy and my body swoon. But he delivered the intensity necessary to get the job done. Would Stechschulte have taken this book to a five star like Shutter Island? I don't think so.
In the spirit of obsession, are there any other Lehane novels I need to read? I know he wrote Gone, Baby, Gone, as well as a few others. Any recommendations?
4 out of 5 stars