52Books: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

I had toyed with reading Mystic River before, since watching the adaptation by Clint Eastwood staring Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins. It was a wonderful movie, well acted, the characters full and vivid on the screen. A compelling story and I’ve enjoyed it many times over. And that’s the crux of why until now, I haven’t read Mystic River. I’d already seen and enjoyed the movie. I wasn’t even sure what kind of writer Lehane was.

Then I read Shutter Island and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I may never write a “review” about Shutter Island, but it left an indelible mark. I had to try more. I’m glad I did.

Set in East Buckingham along the shore of the Mystic River, Lehane tells the story of three unlikely childhood friends: Jimmy, Sean and Dave who are torn apart as children and then again reunited as adults by tragedy.

The book starts out introducing us to the three boys, laying out the division between The Point and The Flats. The Point, where Sean Devine is from, houses the middle class families, where everyone owns their homes and sends their kids to college. The Flats everyone rents and are laborers or criminals, or both. Riddled with bars, this is where the three boys meet. One from the Point and two from the Flats sharing Saturdays as their father’s drink.

Jimmy Marcus is head strong and wild, impulsive to a point. His father works for Sean’s at Coleman Candy. Dave Boyle is immediately portrayed as a hanger-on, attaching himself to Jimmy like an extra appendage to Jimmy’s annoyance.

Even after Jimmy’s father loses his job, the three try to remain friends. Sneaking Saturdays together that is until Dave got abducted, though he managed escape four days later. The three part ways but never forget.

Twenty-five years later tragedy would bring the three together again. Sean, a homicide detective for the State Police, is brought in on the murder of Katie Marcus, daughter of Jimmy, found in the Pen Park. Sean must unravel the events of the murder before Jimmy, a one time criminal with ties to organized crime, determines to take matters into his own hands. And then there’s Dave Boyle, a married man, a father, who can’t account for his possible involvement the night of Katie’s murder when his wife suspects him of wrong doing.

The theme behind Lehane’s triangle of friends wrought with tragedy is simply, yet enigmatically complex, choices. How our choices can have long stretching fingers into our future. There are many choices the three reflect upon throughout the book, most prominently, what if Dave had never gotten into that car?

After only reading two Dennis Lehane books, he is fast becoming my favorite writer and would recommend his work to anyone looking for a good mystery wrapped in the human condition.

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