Mystic River

“Happiness comes in moments, and then it’s gone until the next time. Could be years. But sadness settles in..”

In the summer of 1975, three friends – Jimmy, Dave and Sean – are approached by two men claiming to be police officers.  While able to coax Dave into their car, Jimmy and Sean would stay behind.  Although Dave would eventually escape after four harrowing days held captive, the lives of the three would remain forever altered.

Flashforward twenty five years and the three friends, now having drifted apart, are brought together following the murder of Jimmy’s daughter, Katie.  Sean, now a detective, is tasked with tracking down the killer.  Can Sean expose the party responsible before Jimmy dishes out his own form of justice?  And just what is Dave hiding from investigators?

In a past interview, Lehane had stated that this was the book he always wanted to write, but knew that as a young, inexperienced author, he didn’t yet have the chops to attempt a novel of such emotional depth.  Following years of work and five very good mystery novels featuring his signature detective duo of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennero, Lehane released Mystic River – his strongest work to date.

You can tell that this was a story that had been marinating in the author’s mind for years.  The three main characters of Dave, Sean and Jimmy are deeply developed and the overall structure of the story offered up many twists and turns with opportunities for great misdirection.  I will say that I did guess the killer about halfway through, so I was pretty proud of myself.

One of the many things that stood out to me was Lehane’s ability to convey grief.  Losing a child is something I’ll likely never experience, but I cannot imagine the soul-crushing despair that comes along with burying a child.  Some of the passages written from the point of view of Jimmy were especially heartbreaking – there’s a moment where Jimmy is imagining his daughter on a cold slab, prepared for her autopsy but also able to recall the smell of her crib as a baby.  Like I said, heartbreaking.

Mystic River is an exceptional read; an engrossing story of loss and grief and those left behind to pick up the pieces.  This is an author at the peak of his abilities; a storyteller firing on all cylinders.  Lehane is someone I trust to tell me a great story (he’s only steered me wrong once) and this is easily one of his best.

(side note – I do plan to check out the movie shortly and I’ll post my thoughts.  I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Sean Penn, but I’m hoping he surprises me – he did win the Oscar after all).

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