Review: Mystic River – Dennis Lehane

dennis lehane mystic river book cover

Jimmy Marcus is from a lower class neighbourhood and Sean Devine from the more middle class family, though the two are good childhood friends. Jimmy has a boy named Dave Boyle who tails him everywhere, an added friend so to speak. One day while scuffling around outside over a disagreement, a car rolls up and takes Dave with them under the pretext of being cops. The boys are young and gullible, but it is only Dave that is foolish enough to join them. Dave disappeared for four days before he finally escaped, which was certainly not part of the plan. Dave suffered terrible atrocities at the hands of two monsters. Naturally the friends grow apart due to age as well as the tragedy that struck them.

Many years later the boys have grown into men with jobs, families and responsibilities. Jimmy Marcus followed his natural crazy roots and landed himself in prison, and while he was inside his wife Marita died. His daughter, Katie, was left behind, and after he was let out, Jimmy swore onto the good life, the straight and narrow for Katie. Having remarried to Annabeth and having two more daughters with her, his life seems set. Running a little store in the Flats, Jimmy is doing well for himself. Except one morning when Katie does not come in to work without word. She misses out her sister’s First Communion, and when Jimmy leaves the church he sees that cops have gathered around Penitentiary Park like flies. He knows, in the pit of his stomach, that this is about Katie, and muscles his way into the crime scene where he discovers her abandoned and bloody car. The officer to respond to Jimmy and keep him back just so happens to be Sean Devine, who has chosen a life in law enforcement.

Jimmy’s life crumbles when his Katie is discovered to be shot and beaten in Penitentiary Park. Dave Boyle, however, has bigger fish to fry when he returns home on the night of Katie’s murder covered in blood and brain matter to his wife, Celeste. He claims that he was mugged and just lost his temper completely. Naturally, when Celeste hears about Katie’s murder, her mind runs rampant, and Dave is acting very strange indeed. He is lying about everything about the night of the murder. Sean swears to investigate the murder thoroughly; meanwhile Jimmy is out for blood. His relations, the Savages, are intent on finding out what went down that night and who needs to pay for the gruesome deed that they performed.

Sean is desperate to keep Jimmy out of this and do his job, all the while suffering his own personal issues what with his wife, Lauren, who left him. Will Sean be able to figure out quickly enough what happened to Katie the night her soul was ripped from the earth? Will Jimmy let the law takes its natural course, or is his thirst for vengeance that strong that reason becomes a myth? What happened with Dave Boyle the night Katie was killed? Was he present and involved? Was there another issue that captivated his attention? Was he truly mugged?

GRADE 8.5I have never read a Dennis Lehane novel before (scandalous, I know), though I enjoyed so many of the film adaptions that were bred from his books. I remember enjoying the movie for Mystic River when it came out, but that was so long ago I couldn’t even remember the content. Which works me out fine; it is all fresh for me. I cannot tell you how unprepared I was for how much I was going to enjoy the book. It is tightly written with a great story and pretty great characters that have depth and meaning and emotions that are right out there to see. There is progression to the story that moves at a reasonable pace, and plenty of situations that you can identify with or that will leave you wondering. The writing style was also completely unexpected for me and I really, really enjoyed it. The reflections of the three main characters as well as their pasts that continually come up is good, and the writing was very consistent. Everything was intertwining, the reactions were spot on and you could identify with the situations. Jimmy Marcus was an especially good character with a lot of depth and a lot of thoughts and emotions. He was the most interesting for me of all the childhood friends, and not just because he was dangerous, but because he had that it factor going for him. Sean was average, completely average and bitter. Dave was the most psychologically screwed of them all, which was also completely understandable.