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Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

Mystic River (2001)

by Dennis Lehane

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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  1. 10
    Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane (sturlington)
  2. 10
    Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  3. 00
    Amagansett by Mark Mills (amyblue)
  4. 00
    The Strangler by William Landay (KingRat)
    KingRat: Mystic River and The Strangler share common themes of close people growing up to eventually be on opposite sides of the law, with all sorts of mixed loyalties on all sides. Both are set in Boston and have the same hard-boiled feel to them.

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Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
Lehane picks you up by the scruff of your neck and drops you into the middle of working-class Boston where loyalty is the only thing that counts, and those who break the unwritten rules pay the ultimate price.

I can't praise his dark, gritty prose enough. Lehane takes you deep inside the minds and hearts of his protagonists and shows us that despite all their mistakes, struggles and bad decisions, they all want what everyone wants: a decent life, free from stress, and to love and be loved.

The plot hums along solidly, with twists and turns, and just enough reveal to keep the reader guessing, and then second-guessing, whodunit. But the bigger question is why. A great read for any mystery fan.
( )
  ChrisNorbury | Apr 17, 2014 |
It's funny. I thought I had read this already, but now I realize that what I mistook for a previous, hazily remembered reading was in fact a pickup of the general plot line from watching bits and pieces of the movie starring Sean Penn, which was based on this book. I'm glad I've actually read it now, as it was an engrossing and heartbreaking tale of three boys, friends as children until something happens to them as 11-year-olds whose reverberations don't finish playing out until long after they are grownups.

Of the three boys we are introduced to at the beginning, Sean Devine seems the most likely to succeed. None of the boys come from money, but Sean's family lives in The Point, a slightly more affluent working-class neighborhood of Boston, and his parents place a premium on education and making sure that Sean has choices that they didn't have. Jimmy Marcus and Dave Boyle are from the other side of the tracks, a lower-rent district called The Flats. Jimmy is a reckless, fearless kid who thrives on breaking the rules. Dave is that kid who is nobody's friend and nobody's enemy. He tags along after Jimmy wherever he goes, and Jimmy tolerates him without actually seeking out his company. Then Dave is abducted, and when he returns four days later nothing is the same.

When we meet the boys again as grownups, their lives have not gone as we might have predicted. Sean has become a cop, and a good one, but his marriage is a shambles and he's just coming off a suspension. Jimmy has moved past an earlier life of crime and now is a law-abiding owner of a small convenience store with three daughters. Dave continues to drift through life, where even a wife and a son can't anchor him to reality and his childhood horror keeps bubbling to the surface in ways he can't predict or control. It all comes to a head when Jimmy's teenage daughter is murdered, Sean is assigned to investigate, and Dave quickly becomes a suspect. Lehane layers revelation upon revelation, slowly building the story to a climax that dispenses a rough sort of justice that ultimately nobody can take satisfaction in.

I knew Lehane was a fine writer well-versed in grim and twisty subjects. His Kenzie-Gennaro series is a masterful display of dark humor and gruesome tragedy. With Mystic River, he's created another pitch-perfect examination of the ways in which past and future combine to create an uncomfortable present. This book could be the textbook for a master class in how to convey a sense of place and character strictly through dialogue, which carries all the flavor of working-class Boston in every line. Even if you've seen the movie and you think you already know how it ends, you'll enjoy the scenery along the way. ( )
3 vote rosalita | Oct 16, 2013 |
Mystic River
by Dennis Lehane
Cover by Chip Kidd
Originally published in 2001 by William Morrow
"Chip Kidd" edition published in 2003 by William Morrow Paperbacks

WHO: Nineteen-year old Katie Marcus disappears one night.
WHAT: Her father, Jimmy Marcus (an ex-con) and Sean Devine (state police detective), once childhood friends-of-a-sort, both work to find out what happened and whodunit along separate lines of inquiry. Another childhood compatriot, Danny Boyle, gets mixed up in the mess.
WHERE: The story takes place in the last of the old Boston neighborhoods, Buckingham Flats…
WHEN: as 21st century developers encroach to make over Southie.
WHY/HOW: Sean is coming in after a week-long suspension for a professional infraction. He is chosen by another detective to work the case that has fallen in state jurisdiction. The fact that Sean knows the Marcus family seems not to be a conflict of interest. Anyway, Jimmy, though having gone legit as a shop owner, is still connected and has the resources to pursue the matter.

+ Brilliantly constructed plot-wise.
+ Evokes the old neighborhoods in terms of look and feel of the way things were. For those who remember the neighborhoods, even as late as the the early to mid-eighties, this is powerfully nostalgic.
+ Characters are realistic, meaning they aren’t caricatures (like Bubba from the Kenzie/Genaro series) or cinematic in vision.
+ There are scenes of intense poignancy, which make it worth reading even if you saw the movie (which is also very good even though a plot spoiler if you saw it before reading the book.)
- This makes the Kenzie/Genaro series look like crap. It’s especially hard to explain Moonlight Mile (2010) after you’ve seen what Lehane can do. Actually, Moonlight Mile is difficult to explain as anything but a tired write-off of the series, but still the difference in quality between Moonlight Mile and Mystic River is leagues apart.

OTHER: I purchased a print copy of Mystic River (by Dennis Lehane.) I apologize, but I do not remember who I purchased it from! I am also saddened to say that I left my copy of the book at a cabin in Maine and did not note the passage that I wanted to quote in reference to Chip Kidd’s cover. In essence, Sean Devine is in a car cruising along the highway at night and the colors and light are sweeping past him. The passage is easy to blow past, but to me it stood out as a direct link between the story and the art work.
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Aug 13, 2013 |
Dennis Lehane takes the conventional police procedural and turns it into something intimate and literary - no small feat, I promise you. Mystic River follows the story of Sean, Jimmy, and Dave - three boys who grew up together in Boston. One morning, Dave is lured into a car by a couple of strangers, while Sean and Jimmy remain behind. What happens to Dave will come to affect all three of their lives forever.

Fast forward to the present. Now in their early thirties, the three men are brought together again by the murder of Jimmy's eldest daughter, Katie. Sean, now a State Trooper, investigates Katie's death, while Dave, who came home covered in someone else's blood the night Katie died, is under police suspicion.

The plot unfolds at a slower pace than most mystery novels, but the characters are written so gracefully that the story comes alive, even before the murder actually occurs. Every sentence is direct and precise, which really helps to create a taut and complex novel.

I think what I liked most about this story was its literary style - that is to say, a writing style that relies more on character, mood, and theme rather than plot - which is unusual for me, since I have a tendency to lose patience with literary novels. But this story was real and gritty, and even though I knew what was going to happen from watching the movie, I still tore through the book at a feverish pace. (That being said, if you haven't seen the movie yet, I highly recommend reading the book first. The movie is fabulous, but I think knowing the plot ahead of time changes the reading experience.)

That being said, there's still a lot to appreciate in this novel, particularly the way the setting (Boston) interacts so deeply with each of the characters. There's a distinct class issue, with Sean growing up in a better neighborhood than either Jimmy or Dave, and Jimmy's history with the Boston crime scene has a direct influence on his life and his actions after Katie dies. The neighborhoods have such a distinct presence that they almost become secondary characters in the novel.

And because the working class/criminal populations are so prominent, there's a good amount of harsh language and violence in the story.

Suggested for readers who like: gritty murder mysteries/police procedurals, dark literary fiction, stories with a distinctive & prominent setting.

Readalikes: The first books that came to mind were Tana French's Dublin Murder Mystery series. Although they take place in Ireland, and are more focused on the police end of the investigation, the characters are extremely well-developed, the stories are dark and somewhat gruesome, and the setting features prominently in each of the novels. In the Woods is the first, but each one can be read as a standalone.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy. While maybe not as skillfully written as Mystic River, Black Dahlia is still a dark, gritty murder mystery (taken directly from the headlines of 1947) that focuses on the setting (LA) and the characters.

And if you can't get enough of Dennis Lehane, try Shutter Island, another dark, gritty novel of psychological suspense. ( )
  coloradogirl14 | May 31, 2013 |
This book had such a huge impact on me. The ending took my breath away. I had no idea such a surprise was coming. The story was so engrossing and each of the characters so perfectly made. ( )
  shesinplainview | May 12, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lehane, Dennisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kuipers, HugoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuipers, NienkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stignani, FrancescaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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[He] did not understand women. It wasn't the
way bartenders or comedians didn't understand
women, it was the way poor people didn't
understand the economy. You could stand
outside the Girard Bank Building every day of
your life and never guess anything about what
went on in there. That's why, in their hearts,
they'd always rather stick up a 7-Eleven.
- Pete Dexter, God's Pocket
There is no street with mute stones
and no house without echoes. - Gongora
For my wife, Sheila
First words
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.
You ever think how the most minor decision can change the entire course of your life?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish between this 2001 Dennis Lehane novel, Mystic River, and the 2003 movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, of the same name. Thank you.
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.

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Book description
The book focuses on the stories of three boys who grow up as friends in Boston — Dave Boyle, Sean Devine, and Jimmy Marcus. When the story opens, we see Dave abducted by child molesters while he, Sean, and Jimmy are horsing around on a neighborhood street. Dave is returned home days later, emotionally shattered by his experience. The book then moves forward 25 years: Sean has become a homicide detective, Jimmy is an ex-convict and currently owns a convenience store, and Dave is a shell of a man. Jimmy's daughter disappears and is found brutally murdered in a city park, and that same night, Dave comes home to his wife, covered in blood. Sean is assigned to investigate the murder, and the three childhood friends are caught up in each other's lives again.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060584750, Paperback)

Ever since blasting onto the literary scene with the Shamus Award-winning A Drink Before the War, Dennis Lehane has been the golden boy of noir. His Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro novels are marvels of tight pacing, dialogue so good it gets under your skin and stays there, with dead-on portrayals of working-class Boston neighborhoods. Sure, he's the oft-proclaimed, hard-boiled heir to Hammett and Chandler, but Lehane also takes a page from the Hemingway school of hyper-intense writing. He pares away and pares away until he's left with the absolute essentials--and then those essentials just explode off the page.

In his five Kenzie-Gennaro novels, the detective duo is at the nexus of Lehane's big bang. Darkly funny and just this side of jaded, Angie and Patrick move through Dorchester's bleak streets with an assurance born of familiarity. It's impossible to imagine these streets without the pair, or to imagine the pair away from those streets. Mystic River, then, arrives as a bit of a gamble, as Lehane moves from the sharp edges of portraiture to the broader strokes of landscape. No Angie, no Patrick: this neighborhood is on its own. It's not any prettier and certainly no friendlier, and its working-class façade still barely masks the irresistible tug of violent ways, means, and ends.

Twenty-five years ago, Dave Boyle got into a car. When he came back four days later, he was different in a way that destroyed his friendship with Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus. Now Sean's a cop, Jimmy's a store owner with a prison record and mob connections, and Dave's trying hard to keep his demons safely submerged. When Jimmy's daughter Katie is found murdered, each of the men must confront a past that none is eager to acknowledge. Lehane tugs delicately on the strands that weave this neighborhood together, testing for their strengths and weaknesses; this novel seems as much anthropological case study as thriller.

By turns violent and pensive, Mystic River is vintage Lehane. How good is it? You may go in missing Angie and Patrick, but after a few pages you won't even realize they're gone. Lehane's noir is still black magic. --Kelly Flynn

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:21 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened -- something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever. Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay -- demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy's daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy's daughter died covered in someone else's blood. A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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