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Mystic River

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Overview

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....
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Overview

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)

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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

Esquire
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.
Newsweek
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.
From The Critics
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380731855
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/2/2002
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Dennis Lehane

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 and his wife, Angie, currently live in California with their children.

Biography

Dennis Lehane knows Boston like the back of his hand. Born and raised in Beantown, he left to attend college and graduate school in Florida, but -- like a homing pigeon -- he returned soon thereafter. In order to support himself while he focused on his writing, he took a number of odd jobs that included counseling mentally handicapped and abused children, loading trucks, parking cars, working in bookstores, and waiting tables.

While he was still in college, he wrote the first draft of A Drink Before the War. Published in 1994, this Shamus Award winner introduced Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, private investigators who live and work in Dorchester, the same blue-collar Boston neighborhood Lehane grew up in. Since their compelling debut, Kenzie and Gennaro have gone on to star in a gritty crime noir series acclaimed by readers and critics alike.

The idea for his breakout novel , 2001's stand-alone thriller Mystic River, came to Lehane while he was still writing the Kenzie-Genarro installment Prayers for Rain. The story of three childhood friends who share a dark past, Mystic River is a murder mystery with powerful psychological overtones. An immediate sensation, the book achieved blockbuster status when Clint Eastwood turned it into an award-winning film in 2003. Then, in his 2007 directorial debut, Ben Affleck adapted Lehane's favorite Kenzie-Gennaro novel, Gone, Baby, Gone, for the big screen.

Lehane's career shows no signs of slowing down, Since the success of his Boston-based mysteries, he has broadened his oeuvre to include television screenplays and short stories -- one of which, "Until Gwen," was adopted into a successful, limited-run play.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Lehane:

"My favorite job was parking cars."

"My favorite game is pool."

"I have an obsession with the color blue -- blue house, blue car, lots of blue shirts."

"I love good writing. Unequivocally. I think competition between writers is wonderful and healthy, but I never understood envy. When a peer writes a book that I know I couldn't have written, I feel the strangest elation because at this point I learn as much if not more from my peers as I do from the old masters."

"I unwind to Red Sox games and am a Patriots season ticket holder. The worst months of every year are February and March -- no baseball, no football, no point."

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

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.
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First Chapter

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 pepermission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Dennis Lehane<>/b>
Barnes & Noble.com: To start with an obvious question, what lay behind the decision to step outside the framework of a popular, established series? Were you getting a bit burned out on the Kenzie/Gennaro novels, or has it always been your intention to try different things?

Dennis Lehane: It's always been my intention to try different things, and Mystic River, in one form or another, had been rattling around in my head for about five years when I decided to put some of it down on paper. As for being burned-out, that's a fair question, and I'd say the characters burned out on me more than I burned out on them. If you consider that in five books, Patrick and Angie have: a.) Gone head-to-head with two lethal street gangs; b.) Survived eight major gun battles; c.) Battled three serial killers; d.) Been forcibly ejected from a speeding car (Patrick); e.) Been shot in the stomach (Angie); f.) Shot in the chest (Patrick); g.) Killed four people apiece; and h.) Each suffered bouts of severe, clinical depression...then one begins to question the believability-factor, even in a genre in which a rather large suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite. Also, Patrick and Angie were just flat-out wiped by what I'd put them through and told me they wanted a vacation. A long one. Preferably in the Carribean. So off they went.

B&N.com: Did you, at any point, feel pressured to stick with what has worked for you in the past? Have you been made to feel that you're taking a commercial risk in trying something as different as Mystic River?

DL: I don't think my publisher was exactly ecstatic that I was branching out just when the series seemed to have found an audience, and most fans I heard from were certainly loud and clear about how little they wanted me to put Patrick and Angie on ice even for a little while. Still, no one said, "Don't do it," so I didn't ultimately feel any pressure from those quarters. I did feel some from myself, though. I kept thinking, "I can write another Patrick/Angie book pretty easily, so why take on a whole new cast and jump from first-person voice to third and risk falling flat on my face and losing two years of my life to write something I'm not sure I can finish and I'm not sure is any good in the first place?" And the answer, essentially, lay in the question -- because of the challenge of creating a new cast; because it was a risk; and because I might fail. In a creative sense, I think if you back down from those types of challenges, then you're artistically dead. At the very least, you become boring as all hell.

B&N.com: While reading Mystic River, I had the sense that you were stretching yourself more than ever before, deliberately setting yourself larger artistic challenges. How satisfied are you with the finished product?

DL: When I was in grad school, a professor pointed out that I was a far bigger fan of books that failed but failed in grand fashion than I was of safe, well-executed "gems." I'm just not a big fan of books that play safe or authors who seem to have drawn up an artistic schematic that they follow, to the letter, every time out of the box. So with Mystic River, I knew that the one thing I could absolutely not allow myself to produce was a book that was identical to a Patrick/Angie book in all respects except the names of the characters. And I wanted to write something that felt epic -- if not in length, at least in range of emotion and event. And anytime you attempt something epic, your odds of tanking are much higher than those of succeeding. But then I thought, Oh, why the hell not?

As for how satisfied I am, I'd say I'm pretty happy with it. But I won't truly know how I feel for a few years. It takes that long to get some distance.

B&N.com: All of your work, including your new novel, is notable for its sense of place, its evocation of the working class neighborhoods that helped shape the characters' lives. Does the East Buckingham of Mystic River have a real-life equivalent?

DL: East Buckingham is a mishmash of several Boston neighborhoods -- Dorchester, where I grew up, and then Charlestown, South Boston, and Brighton. I lived away from Boston for eight years, and when I returned in 1993, the neighborhoods I knew best were beginning to face the assault of gentrification. As time passed, the assualt grew stronger and far more definite, and I began to believe that the whole concept of the northeastern urban enclave was an endangered species, for reasons both good and bad. And that idea informed the writing of the book.

B&N.com: Mystic River ends with a sense of unfinished business between two of the central characters, Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus. Are you going to leave things in this open-ended state, or would you consider picking up Sean and Jimmy's story at some point in the future?

DL: I think Jimmy and Sean's stories have been told. Yes, there are some questions at the end, but the pertinent ones have been answered. I can see them coming back in a limited capacity, however-mentioned or seen in passing -- when I do the next East Buckingham book, whenever that should be. (Of course, that's how I feel now. In two or three years, I might feel the opposite. We'll see.)

B&N.com: Let's talk a bit about other forms you've worked in. I've read that you consider yourself "a short story writer who fell into writing novels." Have you written much short fiction? Does the short form continue to attract you?

DL: My career is such an accident. That's what I meant when I said I "fell" into writing novels. And everything happened so wonderfully fast that I often find myself far more in kinship with unpublished, struggling writers than I do with published, successful ones, if only because it often seems like a matter of months -- I swear to God -- since I was parking cars. To put it in perspective, five years ago I was ducking calls from collection agencies and now I own a house. Given the working class world I come from, that sort of economic ascent still seems a bit surreal. I love short stories. I steeped myself in them through my late teens and most of my twenties. But it's a brutal form to master, and while I love it, I'm not sure I mastered it, ultimately. Certainly not to the degree that geniuses of the form like Andre Dubus, Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, Joyce Carol Oates, and Alice Munro have. Quite by accident, though, I discovered a comfort level with novels that surprised me, and while it took me several years to come to terms with the idea, I think that I'm a better novelist than I am a short story writer. I still play with them, though. I write probably one a year and keep them to myself. The one that I did publish ("Running Out of Dog"), I did so because I felt it worked as a cohesive piece, where my others tend to be a bit messier and less audience friendly.

B&N.com: How about movies? You wrote and directed a film I've never had a chance to see called Neighborhoods. Was directing a movie a good experience for you? Do you ever think about adapting and directing one of your own books?

DL: Very few people saw Neighborhoods, so don't feel bad. It never found a distributor, so it played a few small festivals and art houses and that was it. I enjoyed directing and I could see doing it again, but I didn't love it the way I love writing novels, so there's no pressing desire to hop back into the director's chair anytime soon. I'm extravagantly lucky to be paid to do what I love, what I'd do for free, and so that's my primary concentration for the rest of my life, really.

B&N.com: As a novelist, do you feel committed to writing crime fiction, or are you interested in working with other genres or modes of storytelling?

DL: I'm not sure if the term "crime fiction" is as viable as it once was. So many writers working in the form today -- James Crumley, James Ellroy, Minette Walters, George Pelecanos, Daniel Woodrell, S. J. Rozan, to name just a few -- are working at such an audacious level of artistry that their work can stand alongside, if not above, so many authors working in the "literary" genre. The stigma that used to be attached to the "crime" genre seems almost nonexistent these days except in a few, stray microscopic quarters, and no one listens to the voices in those quarters except the voices themselves. So I don't feel any desire to write my books with an eye on how they'll be categorized because any worthwhile categorizations won't be applied until long after I'm dead.

B&N.com: This is not exactly an original question, but I really would like to know what writers -- in or out of the crime genre -- influenced you most deeply. And while we're on the subject, what writers do you read for pleasure these days?

DL: The most influential novel I've ever read was The Wanderers by Richard Price, which I read for the first time when I was 14. I can't adequately describe the effect of that book on me, but it changed everything. For the very first time in my life, I read a book in which the characters resembled and spoke like people I knew. And I felt freed because of it: from that point on, I knew for certain that it was okay to write about the world I came from. And Price continues to amaze me. I can't think of a better novel published in the '90s than Clockers. It's the book I honestly think Dosteyvsky would have written if he were living in our times. Beyond Price, I'd say Graham Greene was a big influence, as was Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker, Pete Dexter, William Kennedy, Donald Westlake's "Richard Stark" book, and (don't ask, it's too complicated to explain) Edith Wharton and Walker Percy.

As for writers I enjoy but can't trace any "influence" to, I'd start with the South American magic realists like Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende and move on to Fitzgerald, John Irving, Alexandre Dumas, Toni Morrison, Martin Amis, Tim O'Brien, Flannery O'Connor, and Marguerite Duras just for starters.

The best books I've read recently were Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, which absolutely devastated me, and Buffalo Soldiers by Robert O'Conner, which is the best first novel I've read since, well, The Wanderers probably.

B&N.com: Now that this big new book is behind you, do you have any sense of what you'll be doing in the immediate future? More Kenzie/Gennaro novels? Or something as ambitious -- and unexpected -- as Mystic River?

DL: I wish I knew. I've got some characters in my head who are just starting to stretch and stir and knock on the door, but as for what kind of novel they'll inhabit -- Kenzie/Gennaro or something else -- we'll just have to see. I wish I had a better answer because it would probably make me seem like I know what I'm doing, but, sadly, I don't. (Bill Sheehan)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 381 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 383 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    Disappointing

    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.

    16 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Well Written, but dark

    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.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2012

    (insert headline here)

    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

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mystic River

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Read and Writing Style...

    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.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2013

    Will you please just review the book.

    I'm not sure what all of the wierd back and forth is about, but it would really be nice if you guys could either review this book or just use text messaging for whatever you are talking about. Believe it or not when people look at the reviews, they are actually trying to get an opinion regarding the book. Your inappropriate use of this function is really inconsiderate. Thank you

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    A fantastic read

    A fantastic read. Just when you think you' ve got it figured out, Lehane turns everything on its head. One of his best.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 15, 2013

    A gripping, satisfying story

    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?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2012

    Disappointing!

    I am a reader, 2,3 books a week. While l admit that Lehane is a great writer, I feel like I need an antidepressant after reading Mystic River. Reading a book has a purpose. Entertain, teach, inspire, even spook, etc. What was the message? Couldn't one single person have a moment of joy? Just one little victory in their miserable lives? Such a dark, hopeless story with the bad guys winning. The perp figured out way before the ending. Disappointing!

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2001

    Disappointed for the first time in Lehane

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Exciting psychological thriller

    In the Boston area, Jimmy Marcus, Dave Boyle, and Sean Devine are best friends, playing together like preadolescents do everywhere. Their friendship and perhaps childhood ends when eleven-year old Dave enters the car of two strangers claiming to be cops, who sexually molest him. When he escapes and finally returns home he is not the same carefree child. <P>Twenty-five years later, homicide detective Devine investigates the murder of Marcus¿ nineteen-year-old daughter. His prime suspect is Boyle, whose own wife believes he is more monster than human being. Marcus, an ex-con, conducts his own inquiries because the grieving father plans to provide his own brand of justice to the culprit. These three former friends appear heading towards a bloody deadly collision. <P> Dennis Lehane, known for his Kenzie-Gennero series, has written his best novel to date. MYSTIC RIVER contains a who-done-it, but that is a subplot of the theme that centers on the impact on adults of their broken childhood relationships. This psychological suspense tale works because the three key players and several support members like Boyle¿s wife appear genuine and consistent so that their actions feel right for them. Though his Kenzie-Gennero series is very good, readers will demand Mr. Lehane take further sabbaticals from it so that he can concentrate on more stand alone novels like this excellent book. <P>Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2013

    Love all his books

    A great read from start to finish

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    Skytalon

    Waits

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Mysticsun

    *lapped his c.um up and c.um in his mouth.* more more!!!

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    Flamekit

    Walks in. "Are there any elders here?"

    1 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2012

    Great whodunnit

    I'm not generally a fan of multiple points of view in the same novel but this novel is one of the few exceptions.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2004

    Literary in Emotion Alone

    Few novels of recent authorship have really been intended to linger in the reader's mind beyond the closing words -- which was why this story of such amazing emotional depth and maturity was as pleasantly surprising as it was to me. When nearing the finish, I honestly believed I was reading something deep and interesting, dramatic when the plot required it. Sixty or so pages from the end, however, it collapses on itself with all the weight of its own empathetic spirit. The story lapses into typing up the murder's mystery -- doing so in a rather shoddy manner that makes me wonder if Mr. LeHane didn't come upon his deadline in the midst of writer's block and hire an amateur noir novelist to finish it for him. In the end, the unneccesary details of the end feel poorly crafted and lazily drawn, the broad and introspective scope of the previous chapters moot. It's still worthy of a read, but don't expect an ending as dazzling as its brilliant lead-up.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    Mystified River

    Having read all of the previous reviews and accolades that Lahane received for this book, I just knew that it would be the best book I read this year. NOT! The characters were all murky, with not one--including the poor murdered girl--who was worth saving. The plot was right out of 'The Sopranos,' minus the colorful mob characters that help keep the series from taking itself too seriously. I disliked the book so vehemently that when Lahane had a book signing in my town, I refused to go, even though I have a hard copy, first edition. Interestingly, I've heard from several people that the movie is much better than the book, and that's usually a sign of a very bad book. In fact, one friend said that the director of the movie filled in and fleshed out what was missing in the book, and that was what improved the movie. However, my reaction to the book was so negative that I doubt I'll ever see the movie.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2003

    Boring, very slow, and disappointing !

    Having read and enjoyed all the previous Lehanne books I was very disappointed with this one. In addition to being a very slow read the characters in this book were the type that were very difficult to care about. I was barely able to finish the book. A total waste of time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2001

    words

    Mr Lehane seems to enjoy the use of a great many words, most of which when strung together are boring.It is true that the author needs to describe the characters,and action, but common. A description of 411. I thought I was going to die from verbosity. I guess I'm angry because I looked forward to so much from this author and got so little.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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