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Mystic River Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2011
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From the Back Cover
When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened -- something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever.
Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay -- demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy's daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy's daughter died covered in someone else's blood.
A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves.
About the Author
Dennis Lehane is the author of ten previous novels—including the New York Times bestsellers Live by Night; Moonlight Mile; Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; Shutter Island; and The Given Day—as well as Coronado, a collection of short stories and a play. He lives in California with his family.
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It took me awhile to engage with the book - like way more than I am used to - but I have to say once I got into it, i was completely hooked. Bottom line is that I recommend it. However, I would encourage anyone new to Lehane to start with "The Given Day", "Mystic River", "Shutter Island", "Since We Fell", "The Drop" first. It has been many years but I enjoyed his private detective series too. Especially "Moonlight Mile".
The central proposition the book explores is whether bad money can lead to good; whether crime and violence can be whitewashed or redeemed. It also takes a look at religious morality versus practical morality. Joe is in many respects an honorable man in a dishonorable trade. He doesn't trade in violence for its own sake but is forced to resort to horrific violence periodically in order to survive. He is loyal to his friends and generous to his enemies. He is untainted by the racism of his era. He is not especially greedy in a world where everyone is greedy. He is, in the author's depiction, a fundamentally good man in a rotten world. And of course, this position is untenable and an awful price has to be extracted.
I must say I found this book less compelling than some of Lehane's wonderful moral tales set in the hard world of South Boston. There were periods when nothing much happens and the narrative tension slackens. The characters don't snap to life, especially the villains who are not sufficiently villainous. Joe's lover is also two-dimensional. The history was kind of interesting but the setting lacked the immediacy of Lehane's contemporary novels. And I thought the book lost momentum when the scene switched from Boston to Florida -- as if the blazing sun bleached and sapped the narrative strength. That said, it was still an interesting read.
Others will no doubt write about plot specifics. I will not because I do not want to spoil the read for people who buy the book. I do agree with those who compare if to the Godfather book. There are some differences because Coughlin is obviously not Italian and his father is a cop. But Lahane develops a great story based on Coughlin's life starting as a petty criminal and going on from there.
But then I discovered there was more! Plus they made a movie out of this book and it's not bad at all either. The book is much better though.