257 of 270 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2003
Fear, obsession, paranoia...Dennis Lehane's "Shutter Island" is the stuff nightmares are made of. It is noir psychological suspense at its finest.
An isolated island, a raging hurricane, a locked room, secret codes, a mental hospital, rumors of mysterious medical experiments frame the story.
It is a scary, deceptive, disorienting, complex story grounded in the reality of the times...cold war USA in 1954 ("I like Ike").
Mr. Lehane weaves many threads throughout the unpredictable plot. The set up is thorough and the characters are fully developed. The twists and turns play havoc with your mind.
The unexpected is the norm...a couple of times I was able to figure something out a page and a half before it was revealed, but that was rare. The ending is unguessable.
Immediately upon finishing, I reread the prolog and final chapter...and will read this book again. I have not been so dumbfounded by an ending since William Diehl's "Primal Fear."
"Shutter Island" is etched in my memory.
391 of 424 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2003
First there were the noir detective books. Then "Mystic River", which was 70-80% different. "Shutter Island" is a 100% switch from either of those. I was fortunate enough to purchase mine at a book signing where Lehane answered questions for about an hour. He has taught writing extensively and is a very patient, cordial and articulate inverview (not all writers speak well). Lehane said something that helps understand all his work, but especially this one. He said his stories are about people who strive and strive for what they want, only to wind up with what they need instead, and is makes their soul whole. "Shutter Island" is a very tight (we know what the main character, Teddy, knows - period), freightening story. Still, Lehane laces his outstanding literary skills and fantastic story line with his usual humorous passages, and his wonderful, punchy descriptive metapors. "Shutter Island" is not literally a haunted castle story. All the characters are "real" (human) and there are no ghosts or other-world beings. But it is absolutely, positively the best haunted castle tale I have ever read. This book goes on my list of all-time favorites.
99 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2003
"Shutter Island" is the first book by Dennis Lehane I've ever read. I heard about this book from a movie Website. Apparently Wolfgang Peterson (director of Air Force One, and In the Line of Fire) has optioned this book to be turned into a movie. Reading this book, I can say it would make a FANTASTIC movie. But I digress...
Dennis Lehane's prose is very well paced; secrets behind every corner. Plot twists abound, but I can't say the whole book surprised me because I thought of just about every scenario Marshals Daniels and Aule could get into. At first I thought the premise of two US Marshals looking for an insane, escaped murderess on an island during a hurricane was a little to zany to work, but man, I'll tell you, the whole book is so well done! And I was TOTALLY satisfied with the denouement.
The dialogue really grabs you. Its funny at times, heartbreaking at others and completely true to life. Kudos to Dennis Lehane! Now I'm gonna have to go back and read his previous works, and I can't wait!
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2003
Readers approach an established author with expectations. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Those expectations help keep readers familiar with the author, while recommending the author to friends and attending book signings --- all of those good things. So what does one do when a favorite author not only steps away from established characters, but also takes a familiar genre... and tinkers with it a bit, and thus transforms it into something else?
This is precisely what Dennis Lehane does with SHUTTER ISLAND, a book very different from what he has done in the past and also different from what others laboring mightily in the mystery and suspense idiom have done. Lehane made his bones with five novels featuring the duo of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. His last novel, MYSTIC RIVER, was a departure from those characters but still covered the same territory that Lehane has demonstrated an intimate familiarity with, that being modern-day, working class Boston, through the prism of the detective novel. SHUTTER ISLAND is a totally different animal.
SHUTTER ISLAND takes place not in 2003 but in 1954 and not in Boston but in view of it --- in Ashecliffe Hospital --- located on Shutter Island, an island with a history dating back to the Civil War. The tale is told through the eyes of U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, the son of a fisherman, a man whose life has been marked by tragic violence and sorrow suffered in quiet silence. When we meet Daniels, he is on his way to Ashecliffe Hospital to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando, one of the patients. Her disappearance is significant because Ashecliffe is not an ordinary hospital, but a treatment and holding center for the criminally insane. The island is accessible only by ferry and there is simply nowhere that Solando could have gone.
However, as Daniels and Chuck Aule, his newly acquired partner, begin their investigation, it is immediately apparent that all is not right. The doctors who run the hospital are not entirely cooperative, the assistant warden seems to be more obstructive than not and the warden is an enigmatic character who, within the brief period in which the reader makes his acquaintance, is quite frightening. But to say that nothing or no one on SHUTTER ISLAND is as it or they seem to be is an understatement. And when Solando reappears as suddenly as she vanished, it is a signal that the mystery is only beginning. But SHUTTER ISLAND is more, far more, than a mystery novel. The last chapter of this book will cause you to read it again and again, and then reread the entire novel. All is revealed, yet all remains obscure.
SHUTTER ISLAND is a genre-bending novel that is as absorbing a book as you are likely to read this year, combining the best elements of Agatha Christie, Eric Ambler, Philip K. Dick and Dennis Lehane. Readers will be discussing this novel --- and its ultimate revelation --- for quite some time. Very highly recommended.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2003
Shutter Island sits off the coast of Boston and is home to Ashcliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. Teddy Daniels, U.S. Marshall, and his partner, Chuck Aule, arrive on the island to help in the search of a missing patient. What actually goes on at Ashcliffe? Unconventional psychiatric treatments? It's difficult to review this book without giving too much away. Several other reviewers have said they were unprepared for the shocking ending. So I prepared myself by paying close attention to all the clues. But it wasn't enough. As I finished this book, sitting in a well air conditioned room, I actually broke out in a sweat. That has never happened to me before. What a stunner! Some reviewers have said they thought Lehane's previous novel, Mystic River, was better. I just can't imagine that. So, I'll put Mystic River on my must-read list. It's going to take me awhile to get over Shutter Island, though.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2003
Shutter Island came to me by accident; I ordered a different book, the bookstore sent this one, then discovered their mistake and told me to keep it anyway. So I read it - and became instantly engrossed, as well as an instant fan of Dennis Lehane.
The plot revolves around the investigation into the almost magical, surely impossible disappearance of a woman from a heavily guarded hospital for the criminally insane. Set in the milieu of the 50s, that decade of The American Dream, there's an inherent innocence at play in the background, a sense of truth, but something dark and maybe deadly is going on. Then comes the threat of a hurricane and a prison riot...
It'll keep you up all night, no lie.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2005
This kept me up at night reading because it was such a twisted and gripping psychological thriller. When I finally finished it, I had to read a Dave Barry humor book to shut my mind down so that I could get some rest! This is a complete masterpiece, all coming together in the end for a biting twist that makes complete sense and leaves the reader feeling haunted. Anything having to do with a psychiatric hospital of the 1950's is bound to be scary, but this goes beyond your wildest expectations.
This is an intense read--Lehane had my heart rate up for the last 1/3 of the book. The dream sequences were very vivid, and this was the first time that I really felt an author had actually captured the non-linearity of a dream in text form.
On a side note, the name Shutter Island is fictional, but when I made my Mom read this, she said Lehane is describing Thompson's Island, off the coast of Boston. She used to play in the abandoned forts there as a child.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2005
I don't want to give away anthing about how this book plays out. But I do want to add my accolades to the many others already here. Lehane is a brilliant writer, and this is a gripping thriller. It's also a risky endevour. It's not a traditional crime novel, and it certainly doesn't hinge on the regular sort of bad guy, good guy stuff. As I got near the end of this and watched the main character struggle for truth I was totally with him. I was struggling too. That's the thing - Lehane manages to create his main character so well that you end up just as conflicted and troubled as he is. But then when it's all revealed it all makes sense and you can see the threads that Lehane wove in all the way through, right back to the first scenes. This book is that good, that carefully written.
It would be a lot easier to write this review if I could say more about the plot revelations toward the end. I can't though. But do believe me, this book is worth your time.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A couple of Federal Marshalls arrive on an isolated island that houses a high-security Federal prison for criminally insane. They were summoned to investigate a disappearance of a female inmate. They start suspecting that the staff of the prison is not as cooperative as they could be, and Marshalls start suspecting that behind the façade of the mental institution there is a much more sinister operation. This in a nutshell, without giving away any plot details, is the premise of the latest Dennis Lahene novel.
The plot description in itself does not even begin to do the justice to this gripping and harrowing story. Until now I have only been familiar with Lahene through the movie adaptations of his novels, and Shutter Island has also been made into a movie that will scheduled to come out in a couple of months. The previews of the movie seemed very intriguing, and they spurred me to take a look at the novel itself. I was not disappointed in the least. "Shutter Island" has all the elements of a great novel: an intriguing story with many plot twists, a flowing narrative that keeps you interested and guides you from one scene to another, rich, fully developed characters, and an ending that will both surprise you and satisfy you, and make you want to go back and reread the whole novel. The novel is a psychological thriller in two senses of the term. You are constantly intrigued by the states of mind of the main character and much of the most interesting scenes are in the minds of the main characters. Furthermore, by setting the novel in a mental institution the psychological and psychiatric profession becomes a major part of the story. Even so, the narrative evokes some very strong visual impressions, and there is no doubt that it will make a great movie. Stylistically, there is a very strong sense of film-noir to it and of the hardboiled detective novels from the middle of the 20th century.
Overall, this is a rich and deeply satisfying novel and I would recommend it as one of the best examples of its genre. Purchasing it was well worth the money, and I would recommend reading it whether you plan on seeing the movie or not.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2003
Lehane, long a favorite author of mine, has completely outdone himself with "Shutter Island." This was one of those rare books that avid readers pine for...the ones where the last page comes far too soon.
Taking a dark and surprising twist on the standard mystery/thriller, "Shutter Island" lures you into its story, making you believe you're in for a pleasant and well-written mystery. Somewhere around 2/3's of the way through, you begin to realize that you've been taken to a place you never expected, like the middle of a creepy, dark woods, and left to fend for yourself. To say what this book is about would be to spoil it for anyone brave enough to venture in....so I'll leave it at: READ THIS NOW! You won't be sorry!