Friday, June 06, 2008

There was something so pleasant about that phase

Shutter Island
Dennis Lehane

It's 1954 and US Marshal Teddy Daniels heads to Shutter Island, just off the coast of Boston. He and his new partner, Chuck, are assigned to locate a missing person. It's not just any missing person's case, however: this one comes with a twist.

Shutter Island is home to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and the missing person in question is Rachel Solando, an extremely violent and delusional individual who murdered her three children. Her escape, however, is right out of a movie: she escaped from a locked room and a hospital full of employees onto the rocky, uneven terrain of the island -- all while wearing no shoes. Repeated searches for Solando turn up nothing, and time is of the essence. A hurricane is bearing down on the island, leaving communication and retreat impossible.

That something is not-quite-right on the island is clear from the beginning. We follow the two Marshals as they investigate the events preceding and following Solando's escape. They face quite a challenge, as well: in addition to the improbable nature of the patient's escape, the Marshals are often stonewalled by the doctors and staff. They know the hospital specializes in experimental treatments, although the nature of these experiments is unknown. Soon the investigation changes from "What, exactly, happened to Rachel Solando?" to "What, exactly, is happening on Shutter Island?"

It takes awhile to unravel the secret, but when the truth came out, I was satisfied. I knew something wasn't kosher, but I didn't see the ending coming, always a good sign. Is the ending contrived, as many have said? I don't think so -- not any more than the usual mystery. I left Shutter Island quite pleased with the experience.

Many argue Shutter Island is the weakest of Lehane's novels (those who say so feel that Mystic River is his strongest), but, as this was my introduction to Lehane, I had no preconceived notions about the quality of his work. I didn't find the plot implausible as many did, since it's clear from the beginning that the hospital deals with experimental treatments; in that context, that which would normally be unbelievable becomes believable (I won't say more so as not to spoil the fun).

In a nutshell: Overall, Shutter Island was an enthralling way to pass a day. It may not be perfect, but it was a fast, thrilling read that kept me glued to my chair until I finished it. I'll definitely read more by Dennis Lehane.

Bibliolatry Scale: 5 out of 6 stars

3 comments:

another good thing said...

I love him. I mirrored my first novel afer Mystic River-- unknowingly and then afterward, quite knowingly. Too bad that bad boy is still in a file cabinet.

Julie said...

Sounds like a great summer read. I've never read anything by him either, so no expectations to be dashed. :)

Charley said...

This was a fun read, indeed. I'm curious to see what the film will be like.