Mystic River

Mystic River

by Dennis Lehane
4.3 371

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Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

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)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062068408
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/28/2011
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 50,953
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.50(d)

About 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.


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

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.


An Interview with Dennis Lehane<>/b>
Barnes & 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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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Mystic River 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 371 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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Leaves you guessing till the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must-read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If it's a choice between the novel and the film, go with Lehane ' s original. There were some minor changes in the story in the transition from page to screen. The book is much deeper than any motion picture adaptation could approach. The writer knows these people as though they really existed; he gets inside their heads and opens their hearts to reveal what makes them tick.The blue collar characters and working class neighborhoods feel so real, more real than real life, like a Bruce Springsteen song.
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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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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