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 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
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.
Dennis Lehane is one of the very best young mystery writers.
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.
Stylish...Mystic River is Lehane's best book...it shimmers with great dialogue and a complex view of the world.
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.
Dennis Lehane might be the best mystery writer we have in this country today.
The journey to the unsettling conclusion is as gripping as it is dark, as hard to take as it is impossible to put down.
New York Post
A tense, insightful whodunit...haunting.
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-livesas 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 elseBoyle'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 wasall 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.
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.
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.
Read an Excerpt
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.