Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

(No Series)
Suspense, Psychological

In the year 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate an unexplained disappearance. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this barren island, despite having been kept under constant surveillance in a locked, guarded cell. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on the island, hints of radical experimentation and covert government machinations add darker, more sinister shades to an already bizarre case. Because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is remotely what it seems.

“Which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man?”

When I saw the movie in theater, I had no idea it was based on a book. I think that in this case, seeing the movie before slightly dampened my enjoyment. Being a faithful adaption, I knew every step of the way what would happen, what would be revealed, and the screen even covered much of the same dialogue. It had been two years since I saw the movie, but I guess it was still fresh enough on my mind when I began reading the book.

It’s an eclectic mix – noir, mystery, nearly gothic. Teddy, a recovering widow/cop, pairs up with a partner to find a mentally ill female inmate who has gone missing from a secure island institute. The mystery grows as more and more doesn’t add up, and while storms start to dangerously brew outside, so do imaginations. Soon the mystery strengthens – who is really friend, who is really foe, and what is this place really?

To me this book took awhile to grab my attention cells. I if I recall correctly, the same thing happened with the movie. Its set-up is essential for the sake of story, yet my brain didn’t initially take much interest. I blame this mainly on Teddy and Chuck’s interactions. While their relationship is convincing and they are both likeable by themselves, their dialogue and unusual banter irritates me for some I will likely never understand. Perhaps it was the overuse of the title ‘boss’, maybe it just…really, I don’t know why it bugged me. That will stay the biggest mystery. Since the book covers a four day period, pacing is strong and consistent.

The heady dreaminess and uneven mental shifts cause this book to be delightfully disorientating and mentally mesmerizing. Dennis Lehane writes poetically and the impact of strength and self-confidence.
The ending was a little predictable, but it was also fascinating, excellent, and truly unforgettable. It is the gem of this story. When the book is all read and done, I was surprised at the bigger picture. Potent sociological message, history, and future effect. This is in no way just another chilling tale or staple mystery – it’s a freaking nuclear bomb potency lesson.

What’s sad is this is a lesson written in the past which we ignored and that most of us still ignore even as we reap it’s effects. Odd how that works right?

Completely worth a read, especially before seeing the movie. This kind of entrancing tale rarely comes around.

   Book Quotes:

“This world can only give me reminders of what I don't have, can never have, didn't have for long enough.” 

“She was afraid of all that and so much more, but what terrified her most was inside of her, an insect of unnatural intelligence who’d been living in her brain her entire life, playing with it, clicking across it, wrenching loose its cables on a whim.”

“Whatever she saw beyond the camera lens, beyond the photographer, beyond anything in the known world probably - wasn't fit to be seen.”  


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