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Mystic River

Mystic River

4.3 368
by Dennis Lehane

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When Jimmy Marcus' daughter is found murdered, his childhood friend Sean Devine is assigned to the case. His personal life unraveling, the investigation takes Sean back into a world of violence and pain he thought he'd left behind. It also puts him on a collision course with Jimmy Marcus - a man with his own dark past who is eager to solve the crime with brutal


When Jimmy Marcus' daughter is found murdered, his childhood friend Sean Devine is assigned to the case. His personal life unraveling, the investigation takes Sean back into a world of violence and pain he thought he'd left behind. It also puts him on a collision course with Jimmy Marcus - a man with his own dark past who is eager to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave Boyle, a man who hides monstrous secrets beneath a bland facade - secrets his wife, Celeste, is only beginning to suspect. As the race for a killer heats up, all are pulled closer toward an abyss that will force them to face their true selves - and will mark them as irrevocably as the past itself.

"Lehane is one of those brave new detective stylists who is not afraid of fooling around with the genre's traditions." (Washington Post Book World)

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
After publishing five books in the popular series featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, Dennis Lehane (A Drink Before the War, Prayers for Rain) has finally come into his own. With Mystic River, a passionate, ambitious novel of crime, punishment, and misplaced revenge, Lehane fulfills his early promise and takes his place as an important American writer.

Mystic River begins in 1975 in the blue-collar Boston community of East Buckingham. The defining event of the novel occurs when three young boys -- Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle -- encounter a pair of roving child molesters who pass themselves off as policemen. Two of the boys -- Jimmy and Sean -- escape, but ten-year-old Dave Boyle is not so fortunate and finds himself trapped in a four-day ordeal that changes his life forever.

Lehane then moves the narrative forward to a critical week in the summer of 2000. Sean Devine is now a homicide investigator for the Massachusetts State Police. His marriage has recently ended, and both his personal and professional lives are in disarray. The charismatic Jimmy Marcus is an ex-con who has opted for the straight life and is raising a family and working as the proprietor of a local mom-and-pop grocery. Dave Boyle, whose life peaked during his glory days as a high school baseball star, is a husband and father who has drifted through a series of dead-end jobs and is struggling continuously with the poisonous impulses that are the primary legacy of his abduction.

The lives of these men converge once again when Katie Marcus, Jimmy's oldest daughter, is murdered. As Jimmy grieves and plots revenge, Sean initiates a wide-ranging investigation that gradually illuminates the entire social structure of East Buckingham, a working-class neighborhood with its own peculiar history, myths, and tribal rituals. The investigation also raises troubling questions about the possible involvement of the deeply damaged Dave Boyle, whose path crossed Katie's on the night of her death. Dave's mysterious behavior and contradictory accounts of his actions make him a highly plausible suspect and set the stage for a violent -- and ironic -- denouement.

Mystic River is both a murder mystery and a novel of character. Like the very best fiction, it is, in the end, about many things: grief, sin, karma, hope and the lack of hope, the inevitability of change, the primal importance of family ties, the vulnerability of children, and the countless ways in which past events continue to influence the present. However you choose to read it, Mystic River is a deeply felt, beautifully composed novel by a gifted young writer who keeps getting better and who is helping to set the standards by which 21st-century crime fiction will ultimately be judged.

--Bill Sheehan

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press

Dennis Lehane is one of the very best young mystery writers.
Tampa Tribune
The journey to the unsettling conclusion is as gripping as it is dark, as hard to take as it is impossible to put down.
Boston Herald
A heartbreaker.
New York Post
A tense, insightful whodunit...haunting.
New York Times Book Review
A powerhouse of a...novel...heart-scorching...penetrating...(Lehane's deeply scored characterizations of the three former friends carries the soul of this story...if you really want to know when innocence dies, just look these people in the eye.
Stylish...Mystic River is Lehane's best book...it shimmers with great dialogue and a complex view of the world.
Boston Magazine
Dennis Lehane might be the best mystery writer we have in this country today.
Orlando Sentinel
Heartbreaking....Like Bruce Springsteen's song 'The River,' Lehane's Mystic River looks back at what might have been, the ways in which the past impinges on the present. And like the song, you can't get it out of your head. "Springsteen's narrator says, "Now those memories come back to haunt me/ They haunt me like a curse/ Is a dream a lie if it don't come true/ Or is it something worse?" Ask Jimmy Marcus, Dave Boyle, Sean Devine. Ask Dennis Lehane.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Mystic River is the novel most writers can only dream of writing. Both a thrilling suspense story and a compassionate study of the human heart, it also manages to be funny, heartbreaking and pensive. And Dennis Lehane accomplishes all this in prose so dazzling in its deceptive simplicity that readers will find something to appreciate on almost every page.
Lehane's new novel is about secrets: the people who keep secrets and those who fall victim to them. In this book, the first not to feature private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, everyone has something to hide.

The book revolves around the lives of three Irish kids, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus and Dave Boyle, living in the East Buckingham area of Boston. Predominantly inhabited by poor Irish-Americans, East Buckingham is divided into two sections, the Point and the Flats. Devine lives in the Point section of East Buckingham, and Marcus and Boyle live twelve blocks south, in the Flats. For the most part, the Point and the Flats had little to do with each other; those who live in the Flats view those who live in the Point as low-lives—as the kind of Irish who deserve their bad-boy reputation. The story opens in 1975 when Devine, Marcus and Boyle are accosted by two pedophiles who pass themselves off as police officers. Boyle, unaware of the men's real motivations, gets into the car and disappears. When he returns four days later, having escaped, nothing is the same. Devin and Marcus, unable to overcome feeling of guilt for allowing Boyle to get into the car, quickly drift apart and retreat to their respective neighborhoods.

Twenty-five years later their story resumes. Marcus is now an ex-con gone straight who raised his young daughter, Katie, after the death of his first wife; Devine is a homicide detective with the State Police; and the still-tormented Boyle is married with a son. Now nineteen-year-old Katie has been murdered, and Devine has been assigned to investigate the case. Boyle, who was one of the last people to see Katie alive, arrives home latethe same night with his clothing covered in blood. Boyle tells his wife that he had to defend himself in a mugging, but his story has more holes than a golf course. His suffering wife jumps to his aid, cleaning his clothes, bleaching out the drains to destroy any incriminating evidence, throwing herself into what she perceives is her duty to protect her husband. It is as though she has waited her entire life for this opportunity to rise to the occasion; she both embraces it and is repelled by its implications.

Meanwhile, Boyle still has not talked to anyone about what happened to him twenty-five years earlier, and the secret is eating away at him. Boyle feels himself slowly being replaced by what he calls the Wolf Boy, and the Wolf Boy has desires that scare the hell out of Boyle. Devine and Marcus are harboring corrosive secrets of their own. Twenty-five years after that fateful day in 1975, Devine is still riddled with survivor's guilt. One of Devine's secrets is that he knew better, but that did nothing to stop it from happening. Marcus, for his part, shares that same guilt but has other, deadly secrets of his own, stemming from his days as the ringleader of a successful gang of thieves.

The characters in this book exist in a claustrophobic world where everyone knows everyone else or is related to everyone else—Boyle's wife and Marcus's wife are cousins; and Marcus's wife's brothers, the Savages, are widely known as the neighborhood's dim-witted thugs. This is a world that is both completely familiar and unfamiliar to its inhabitants. Yuppies are moving into the Point, gentrifying everything they can lay deed to, and everywhere there seems to be an air of desperation and anger as one world is being swallowed up by another.

In many important ways, this is Lehane's best book. It possesses a sustained sense of urgency (except for the 1975 prelude, the whole of the story takes place over just a few days) and is a huge step up in its subject matter. Where it falters, oddly, is also in its storytelling. Information that the reader is given but is not supposed to have paid attention to stands out glaringly. When a crucial piece of the puzzle is laid on the table, I knew in a heart beat who the murderer was and what the whole setup was and who the red herring was—all this with another one hundred-fifty pages to go. That kind of blunder is especially maddening in a book that is otherwise so darn good. Sure, it makes the reader feel bright, putting it all together, but it also undermines the payoff. It's a tradeoff that I hope Lehane has gotten out of his system.
—Randy Michael Signor

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lehane ventures beyond his acclaimed private eye series with this emotionally wrenching crime drama about the effects of a savage killing on a tightly knit, blue-collar Boston neighborhood. Written with a sensitivity toward character that exceeds his previous efforts, the story tracks the friendship of three boys from a defining moment in their childhood, when 11-year-old Dave Boyle was abducted off the streets of East Buckingham and sexually molested by two men before managing to escape. Boyle, Jimmy Marcus and Sean Devine grow apart as the years pass, but a quarter century later they are thrust back together when Marcus's 19-year-old daughter, Katie, is murdered in a local park. Marcus, a reformed master thief turned family man, goes through a period of intense grief, followed by a thirst for revenge. Devine, now a homicide cop assigned to the murder, tries to control his old friend while working to make sense of the baffling case, which involves turning over the past as much as it does sifting through new evidence. In time, Devine begins to suspect Boyle, a man of many ghoulish secrets who has led a double life ever since the molestation. Lehane's story slams the reader with uncomfortable images, a beautifully rendered setting and an unnerving finale. With his sixth novel, the author has replaced the graphic descriptions of crime and violence found in his Patrick Kenzie-Angela Gennaro series (Prayers for Rain; Gone, Baby, Gone) with a more pensive, inward view of life's dark corners. It's a change that garners his themes--regret over life choices, the psychological imprints of childhood, personal and professional compromise--a richer context and his characters a deeper exploration. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In his fifth novel, and his first not involving P.I. Patrick Kenzie (Prayers for Rain), Lehane once again proves himself nonpareil in writing about the dark side of the human character. Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle are childhood friends until Dave's abduction by, and subsequent escape from, a couple of child molesters. Twenty-five years later, having grown apart, they are thrown together again by the murder of Jimmy's daughter, Katie. Jimmy is the grieving father out for vengeance, Sean the investigating officer, and Dave a possible suspect. The investigation forces each man to face his past and to examine the paths they have followed since the fateful day when Dave was abducted. What separates Lehane's work from standard noir fare is his ability to endow his characters with such complexity that the reader may understand their actions, even while not necessarily agreeing with them. He has crafted another winner this time around, one certain to move quickly off public library shelves. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/00.]--Craig Shufelt, Gladwin Cty. Lib., MI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After five adventures for Boston shamus Patrick Kenzie and his off-again lover Angela Gennaro (Prayers for Rain, 1999, etc.), Lehane tries his hand at a crossover novel that's as dark as any of Patrick's cases. Even the 1975 prologue is bleak. Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus are playing, or fighting, outside Sean's parents' house in the Point neighborhood of East Buckingham when a car pulls up, one of the two men inside flashes a badge, and Sean and Jimmy's friend Dave Boyle gets bundled inside, allegedly to be driven home to his mother for a scolding but actually to get kidnapped. Though Dave escapes after a few days, he never really outlives his ordeal, and 25 years later it's Jimmy's turn to join him in hell when his daughter Katie is shot and beaten to death in the wilds of Pen Park, and State Trooper Sean, just returned from suspension, gets assigned to the case. Sean knows that both Dave and Jimmy have been in more than their share of trouble in the past. And he's got an especially close eye on Jimmy, whose marriage brought him close to the aptly named Savage family and who's done hard time for robbery. It would be just like Jimmy, Sean knows, to ignore his friend's official efforts and go after the killer himself. But Sean would be a lot more worried if he knew what Dave's wife Celeste knows: that hours after catching sight of Katie in the last bar she visited on the night of her death, Dave staggered home covered with somebody else's blood. Burrowing deep into his three sorry heroes and the hundred ties that bind them unbearably close, Lehane weaves such a spellbinding tale that it's easy to overlook the ramshackle mystery behind it all. An undisciplined but powerfullylacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on his characters' heads.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.18(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Point and the Flats

When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worked together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them. It became a permanent character of their clothes, the beds they slept in, the vinyl backs of their car seats. Sean's kitchen smelled like a Fudgsicle, his bathroom like a Coleman Chew-Chew bar. By the time they were eleven, Sean and Jimmy had developed a hatred of sweets so total that they took their coffee black for the rest of their fives and never ate dessert.

On Saturdays, Jimmy's father would drop by the Devines' to have a beer with Sean's father. He'd bring Jimmy with him, and as one beer turned into six, plus two or three shots of Dewar's, Jimmy and Sean would play in the backyard, sometimes with Dave Boyle, a kid with girl's wrists and weak eyes who was always telling jokes he'd learned from his uncles. From the other side of the kitchen window screen, they could hear the hiss of the beer can pull-tabs, bursts of hard, sudden laughter, and the heavy snap of Zippos as Mr. Devine and Mr. Marcus lit their Luckys.

Sean's father, a foreman, had the better job. He was tall and fair and had a loose, easy smile that Sean had seen calm his mother's anger more than a few times, just shut it down like a switch had been flicked off inside of her. Jimmy's father loaded the trucks. He was small and his dark hair fell over his forehead in a tangle and something in his eyes seemed to buzz all the time. He had a way of moving too quickly; you'd blink and he was on the other side of the room. Dave Boyle didn't have a father, just a lot ofuncles, and the only reason he was usually there on those Saturdays was because he had this gift for attaching himself to Jimmy like lint; he'd see him leaving his house with his father, show up beside their car, half out of breath, going "What's up, Jimmy?" " with a sad hopefulness.

They all lived in East Buckingham, just west of downtown, a neighborhood of cramped corner stores, small playgrounds, and butcher shops where meat, still pink with blood, hung in the windows. The bars had Irish names and Dodge Darts by the curbs. Women wore handkerchiefs tied off at the backs of their skulls and carried mock leather snap purses for their cigarettes. Until a couple of years ago, older boys had been plucked from the streets, as if by spaceships, and sent to war. They came back hollow and sullen a year or so later, or they didn't come back at all. Days, the mothers searched the papers for coupons. Nights, the fathers went to the bars. You knew everyone; nobody except those older boys ever left.

Jimmy and Dave came from the Flats, down by the Penitentiary Channel on the south side of Buckingham Avenue. It was only twelve blocks from -Sean's street, but the Devines were north of the Ave., part of the Point, and the Point and the Flats didn't mix much.

It wasn't like the Point glittered with gold streets and silver spoons. It was just the Point, working class, blue collar, Chevys and Fords and Dodges parked in front of simple A-frames and the occasional small Victorian. But people in the Point owned. People in the Flats rented. Point families went to church, stayed together, held signs on street corners during election months. The Flats, though, who knew what they did, living like animals sometimes, ten to an apartment, trash in their streets -- Wellieville, Sean and his friends at Saint Mike's called it, families living on the dole, sending their kids to public schools, divorcing. So while Sean went to Saint Mike's Parochial in black pants, black tie, and blue shirt, Jimmy and Dave went to the Lewis M. Dewey School on Blaxston. Kids at the Looey & Dooey got to wear street clothes, which was cool, but they usually wore the same ones three out of five days, which wasn't. There was an aura of grease to them-greasy hair, greasy skin, greasy collars and cuffs. A lot of the boys had bumpy welts of acne and dropped out early. A few of the girls wore maternity dresses to graduation.

So if it wasn't for their fathers, they probably never would have been friends. During the week, they never hung out, but they had those Saturdays, and there was something to those days, whether they hung out in the backyard, or wandered through the gravel dumps off Harvest Street, or hopped the subways and rode downtown-not to see anything, just to move through the dark tunnels and hear the rattle and brake-scream of the cars as they cornered the tracks and the lights flickered on and off -- that felt to Sean like a held breath. Anything could happen when you were with Jimmy. If he was aware there were rules-in the subway, on the streets, in a movie theater-he never showed it.

They were at South Station once, tossing an orange street hockey ball back and forth on the platform, and Jimmy missed Sean's throw and the ball bounced down onto the tracks. Before it occurred to Sean that Jimmy could even be thinking about it, Jimmy jumped off the platform and down onto the track, down there with the mice and the rats and the third rail.

People on the platform went nuts. They screamed at Jimmy. One woman turned the color of cigar ash as she bent at the knees and yelled, Get back up here, get back up here now, goddamnit! Sean heard a...

Mystic River. Copyright © by Dennis Lehane. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Elmore Leonard
Get Dennis Lehane's Mystic River. Boy does he know how to write.
Michael Connelly
He's got the great ones—Chandler, MacDonald, Parker—watching over him as he writes every page. But his voice is an original.

Meet 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.

Brief Biography

Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
August 4, 1965
Place of Birth:
Dorchester, Massachusetts
B.A., Eckerd College, 1988; M.F.A., Florida International University, 1993

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Mystic River 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 368 reviews.
clearwatersflowafter More than 1 year ago
Lehane has an excellent style. This book is a page-turner. The characters are very well developed. The story has quite a few unexpected twists and turns. He does an excellent job of describing the motivations behind actions. The story was told from multiple different character's viewpoint, which, while somewhat distracting, was also very well done. If you are looking for a feel good book, this isn't it. My husband felt it was a book about redemption. It left me feeling slightly sick to my stomach. I almost stopped reading it on multiple occasions. It dealt with dark topics, and drug them through the mud of human motivations. In my opinion, there were too many violence-laced sexual scenes. I, personally, don't care about gratuitously exploring every main character's sex life. While it's a part of a healthy life, I don't want to go crawling into my neighbor's bedrooms...and that's what it felt like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I admit, after watching the movie version, probably the 10th time, I really had trepidation about reading the novel. Because, in my not-so-humble opinion, great novels and stories (The Queen of the Damned, Needful Things, even The Bridge of Teribithia for goodness sakes) don't transfer well onto the "silver screen". Since Mystic River (the movie) was such a awesome movie (again, in my opinion), I was genuinely concerned that it would be a bizzaro world version of my "great movie, not-so-great book" (*ahem* Fight Club *ahem*). I worried were for nothing. This novel is tremndous in so many ways. The layering of plots and subplots, the suspense and heavy tension, the pacing and the overall believability of the characters, even down to their idioyncracies and frailties. So, in closing, I would highly recommend it to anyone reading this review. Gordon Lake Station, IN
McCarthy92 More than 1 year ago
I have read most of the works by Dennis Lehane and Mystic River did not disappoint. Denni Lehane's prose is excellent and he always writes great characters that the reader can relate to. To set the record straight, writers like Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and other writers like them, write books that are much more than the crime fiction class they are placed in. Books by these authors should not be compared to James Patterson. Mystic River should have been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, maybe even have won it. It was really that good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well.... I found this from a list of "Best Mystery Books of the Decade".... and was intrigued by the description. I wish I had previewed it for even a second in the bookstore. The language is so gross that I could not enjoy the book. It is on almost every page. Not an occasional appropriate to the character bad word - but horrible, unnecessary profanity. I'm sure some people don't mind this and even think it adds realism to a book. To me - it is not reality - my associates do not speak that way and it offended me. Sorry - I know many people love this book - but I think they need to be aware of the language. The plot is also quite dark and depressing. so I definitely would not recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mystic River was a far cry from the witty, exciting past books by Lehane. The book is entirely too wordly, too many useless description of everyday events and human action. I also felt there was entirely too much foul language (cussing) when the character could make the point without it. Even sever cussing in their own thoughts. I was looking very forward to Lehanes new characters, the this set of people were very mentally and emotionally messed up. Hard to find humor, plot or entertainment in a city that is described as a hell and charaters who only know hate. I will be looking forward to your next novel Lehane, I know you can do much better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fantastic read. Just when you think you' ve got it figured out, Lehane turns everything on its head. One of his best.
fraden More than 1 year ago
I became involved with the characters immediately, caring about them and eager to find out what was going to happen to them. Also, I found myself frustrated with them sometimes because they couldn't see past the ends of their noses and over come their flaws. But that's the same with us real people, isn't it?
Big_Daddy More than 1 year ago
Best thing to say about any of his books is that they are NOT predictable!! Read Shutter Island before the movie and was impressed. Discovered later that Mystic River (I saw the movie when it first came out and liked it...)was by same author. Will now buy Gone Baby Gone by Dennis LeHane also, even though I have already seen that movie also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read from start to finish
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lipplounge More than 1 year ago
As I have seen bits and pieces of the movie (never in its entirety), I was excited to read this book and finally get a feel for the complete story. It is a depressing book where none of the key characters are happy. However, I feel it shows a good portrayal of how one event can affect the lives of all involved differently, and how fear and grief can lead individuals to react irrationally to situations. Being a parent I deeply related to the parent/child bond and how harming that child can cause a parent to strike out - whether deserved or not. With all this being said, I highly recommend this book - just be advised that it is not an uplifting story.
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John_F48 More than 1 year ago
Here is a novel that begins in the distant past as one of three boys is kidnapped and molestested and ends with the now surviving members and their actions. The modern event is the death of Katie Marcus in a state park. Sean, one the original boys is called to investigate a wrecked car with blood on the seat and a bullet hole indicating faul-play. Jimmy, the olther unmolested boy, turns turns out to be the father, who is understandably upset and vows to get the killer and Dave, the original molestation victim implicated himself by killing a pedifile in a mentally induced rage. In the end, Jimmy steps accross the line into lawlessness and murders Dave just as he did many years ago murder a partner that ratted him out for a robbery. And now, Sean must find a way to prove Jimmy's modern crime of killing the wrong man. Boys playing with the gun from the original robbery started the escalating process.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dear announumous from lake station NI ....thank you so much because i was hesitant for the same season... i love the movie but was afraid the book would not match up or be better... I cant wait to read this book.. From Darla Crestline ca.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I watch the movie first. To be honest I did not no about the book. The book was very good even though I new the ending.
Sean_From_OHIO More than 1 year ago
Author Dennis Lehane crafts a near perfect, tension filled drama that is now one of my favorite reads. Lehane is always able to fuse his novels with the street level grit that seem real and fantastic at the same time. Here, the characters are all different shades of grey with no one being completely good nor bad. The dialogue seems realistic, the plot unbelievable, and the ending actually matching the high stakes of the book. Overall, simply a phenomenal book!
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jkates More than 1 year ago
Dennis Lehane does a masterful job of unraveling the interconnected lives of 3 boys become men, boys once separated by one significant event, now brought together again by another. The layers of the lives of Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus and Dave Boyle peel back as the story progresses, revealing enough to keep the reader satisfied, yet hinting at uncovered mystery that urges the reader onward. The book is one that a mystery/detective genre lover can enjoy, but it goes deeper than many of those, delving into the stratified psyches of the main characters. As with any mystery, there are some surprising plot twists and turns, but the focus remains on the resurrected connection of 3 old friends. Summary: I finished it in 3 days. I liked it.