February 6, 2010

Rabid Reads: "Shutter Island" by Dennis Lehane

Title: Shutter Island
Author: Dennis Lehane
Published: Harper Paperback (September 2009); first published by William Morrow (May 2003)
Pages: 369
Genre: Thriller; Mystery
ISBN 978-0-06-170325-6

I caught wind of this title thanks to the trailer of Martin Scorsese's adaptation, which I saw back in the late summer. I thought, holy crap I want to see that. Then, I quickly learned it was based on a book. Subsequently I thought, holy crap I want to read that. Now that I have, I'm still left thinking those two expletive words--holy crap.

I dig a good psychological thriller, and this is definitely good.

It's 1954 and U.S. Marshall, Teddy Daniels, is on Shutter Island off the New England coast, investigating the disappearance of a mental patient from a psychiatric facility. Things really start to take a turn towards weird when Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, discover that the patient--a mother convicted of killing her three children--escaped her cell despite all logic pointing to the impossibility of it without divine intervention or outside help.

To make matters worse, there's a hurricane approaching, and Teddy Daniels seems to have an ulterior motive to wanting access to Shutter Island and Ashecliffe Hospital.

The tension in this novel is nothing short of absorbing. It comes at you at first with an almost procedural air, but that dissipates in a hurry once Daniels and Aule realize they may be in over their heads. The doctors, staff, and even the patients are cooperating with the investigation to a point, but when the two Marshals start pushing their purview to solve the case to find the missing woman, they meet immediate resistance that borders on the sinister. And when suspicion rises that on the island may know of Daniels underlying intent in wanting access to Ashecliffe, the proverbial needle starts to spike.

Seeing the trailers for the movie before reading this book caused me to go in with some preconceptions. I wasn't quite sure how far off the beaten path this story was from other psychological thrillers. The trailers almost seem to suggest a supernatural aspect to the story. I doubt I'm spoiling it for anyone when I say there is nothing supernatural about this novel. It's rooted very firmly in the real world. It's the exploration of the human psyche and its frailties that really sends this novel into left field. Your head just might spin once or twice while reading this one.

The only criticism I have stems from the climax, the twist that brings everything into perspective. And I'm not about to spoil that for anyone. Instead, I'll simply say that I may need to read this a second time in the near future just to gain a better appreciation for how the whole story ties together, now that I can see where it all leads.

I have a feeling moviegoers will be in for a treat with Scorsese's take on this story, but I'd encourage you to check out the book first. It's worth it.

You can read other reviews of this title at: Blog Critics; Devourer of Books; Prairie News


  1. This is one of the books I've been meaning to read, especially before I go see the movie. Thanks for the review.

  2. The same thing happened to me, I caught the trailer and needed to read the book. I really enjoyed it, and cannot wait to check out the film version either. Awesome review!

  3. Glad you both like the review. Hope the movie holds up.