SHUTTER ISLAND
Dennis Lehane


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William Morrow, Apr 2003
Reviewed by Leslie Wainger

I don't think I've ever before done a public rave on a book this way, but I just read Dennis Lehane's SHUTTER ISLAND and have to sing its praises. I've been reading obsessively for hours now (I got so caught up I totally forgot I ordered a pizza and levitated off the couch when the doorbell rang), and even though I've finished the book, my stomach is still flip-flopping with tension and my brain is buzzing. I suppose it's a psychological thriller with a kick of action, but it's also so beautifully written that genre doesn't really matter.

It takes place in the fifties, when two federal marshals are sent to a hospital for the criminally insane on an island somewhere off the Massachusetts coast. Their ostensible aim is to find a missing patient who managed the perfect locked-room escape, but there are goals underlying goals here, and it's hard to tell which puts them in the most danger. Or what the truth really is. Along the way, there's truly horrifying information on the history of psychiatry, but it's never gratuitous, and the very fact that Lehane knows how to work it in naturally, not as a mini-lecture, makes me worship at the altar of his abilities. The skeins of the plot are woven together pretty close to perfectly (What can I say? My inner editor never shuts up, so I noticed a few minor glitches, but they really didn't affect anything). After a while I felt as if there were a noose tightening around my neck in tandem with the marshals', but even so, I never saw the ending coming, and I'm not usually blindsided. Perception really is reality, and Lehane did a masterful job of messing with both. More than that I will not say, because anyone who gives away the ending should be taken out behind the barn and shot; and like Buffy, I'd prefer to have my expiration date be very far away, like a Cheeto, so I'm not giving anyone an excuse to pull out a pistol.

Anyway, I just had to pass the word. Beg, borrow or steal a copy. OK, don't steal one. Buy one. Lehane deserves the royalties.

 

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