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On Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island” (2003).

[Crossposted on Goodreads.]

VERY MILD SPOILERS CONTAINED INSIDE (you’ll have read the same in the book’s blurbs, anyway):

I love a good page-turner every now and then, and this novel — locked-room mystery, ghost story, haunted-house flick, cop thriller, in various amounts — definitely didn’t disappoint. (Especially when you’re on a plane.) But the success of the story is wholly dependent on some sleight-of-hand on Lehane’s part — nothing wrong with this, really, except that skillful construction doesn’t quite conceal the fact that Shutter Island is missing what Lehane does best. In Mystic River, with its Shakespearean dramatic arc, or almost any of the Kenzie/Gennaro books (except maybe for the weak Sacred), one had the sense that Boston and its people were living, breathing, essential characters in the story. (Other than the performances, this rootedness in place is what made Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, and Ben Affleck’s vastly underrated 2007 directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, so powerful.)

Would it be remiss to say that Dennis Lehane’s Boston is, albeit in a more limited fashion, as fleshed out as David Simon’s Baltimore? (Or Richard Price’s “Dempsey”?) It’s that sense of vibrant reality that’s missing from Shutter Island, the idea that a city and its residents had lived there long before our characters step on the stage.