Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mystic River

Mystic RiverMystic River by Dennis Lehane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, three boys were fighting in the street when two men claiming to be plainclothes cops show up. One kid gets in the car, the others stay put, and their lives will never be the same. Decades later, Dave Boyle, the kid who got into the car, is accused of killing the daughter of Jimmy Marcus, one of the other boys, and the third boy has grown up to be Sean Devine, the cop in charge of the case. Did Boyle do it? And if he didn't, can Sean find the real killer?

Yeah, 2013 was supposed to be the year of Dennis Lehane for me. It probably would have been had I not discovered George Pelecanos. However, I'm back aboard the Lehane Train now and quite pleased.

While Mystic River is normally classified as a thriller, it's so much more than that, an exploration of growing up and what a traumatic childhood event can blossom into. Mystic River is the tale of three Boston boys who grew up to be very different Boston men. Dave Boyle has drifted from job to job, never quite managing to bury his abduction experience. Jimmy Marcus is a former career criminal who has gone straight and become a family man. And Sean Devine is a cop with a wife he hasn't seen in over a year and a child he's not sure is his.

From the beginning, Lehane kept the waters sufficiently muddy to hold my interest. While I knew I was supposed to assume Dave Boyle killed Katie Marcus, Lehane had me changing my opinion quite a few times. None of the three leads are very simple characters. Dave's got his childhood baggage but still tries to be the best husband and father he can be. Jimmy was once a criminal and is still a hard man but is a loving family man. Sean is a supercop but his marriage is in ruins and he's coming off a suspension for something very petty.

Once Sean is on the case, the book becomes very hard to put down, like it's been duct-taped to your hands. The mystery, unlike a lot of them these days, is solvable and I guessed who the killer was about 75% of the way through, even though I got the motive wrong.

The writing is everything I came to expect from the Kenzie and Gennaro series and then some. I think this is the book where Dennis Lehane went from "Good Thriller Writer" to simply "Great Writer."

Five stars. I suppose I'll track down the movie now.

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