22 March 2010

Shutter Island

Greetings, gentle readers! (Or not so gentle readers, if you prefer that address.) Since this week is my spring break, I am going to blog more than just my usual one post per week (In addition to this post, I plan on doing a midweek post and a post next weekend). Hurray! At least I hope that's a cause for joy... Anyway, I am kicking off this week of book splurges with an excellent book (written by a new favorite author) that was recently adapted for film by one of my favorite directors. Enjoy!

In 1954, US Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule are sent to Shutter Island, a maximum security insane asylum located in Boston Harbor where some of the country's most dangerous mentally ill prisoners are housed, to investigate the disappearance of delusional murderess Rachel Solando. Solando seemingly walked through a locked door, past several security checkpoints, and vanished. It doesn't take Daniels and Aule long to realize that something is very amiss with this case, especially when the asylum's staff prove unwilling to fully cooperate with the investigation. With one of the worst storms in recent memory blowing in, Daniels and Aule race to locate Solando. But they soon begin to realize that, in addition to the staff being unhelpul at best, someone on the island is trying to drive them insane...

All right, all right! I have a confession to make! *cough*I am a crime fiction fanatic. In fact, it's probably my favorite genre of genre fiction, with fantasy and horror in the running for a close second. My love for crime fiction is rooted in the fact that I harbor a secret, highly irrational desire to be either a district attorney or a criminal psychologist or an FBI agent specializing in organized crime (this, children, is what happens when you read too many Al Capone bios as a teen). I have gotten over this delusion and know that none of these career choices would fit me, but I still love to live vicariously through crime fiction books and movies. And one of my favorite source for crime movies is Martin Scorsese. (The Departed and Casino are two of my favorite movies EVER!) So when I saw that he and Leonardo DiCaprio had a new thriller out--Shutter Island--I was so psyched to watch it. Then when I read that it was based on a Dennis Lehane book, I wanted to read the book, partly due to my policy of reading books before seeing the movie but also because I have heard a lot of wonderful things about Lehane's work and have been meaning to read his novels for some time. This was my, erm, motive for reading Shutter Island this weekend, and I was not in the least disappointed. This novel is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read and now I am really psyched to see the movie. Yeehaw!

Any good thriller needs a page-turning plot, and Shutter Island certainly delivers in this respect. The investigation into Soldano's disappearance is a genuine page turner. I started this book in the morning and didn't put it down until I had read the last page. It was that involving! And that harrowing! The story involves a complex brainteaser that will challenge even the most adept suspense readers. I knew something was afoot, but I never saw the truly shocking ending, which is one of the most stunning I have ever read, coming. What sets this novel above typical thriller fare, though, is the overall quality of the novel. Yes, the plot is engaging, but the book is extremely well-written. I was particularly impressed with the characters. Sadly, most crime fiction characters are usually so stereotypical, they are not very interesting. Not so with this novel. Teddy is a sympathetic, intelligent protagonist and Chuck was equally as complex and believable. I also enjoyed the unique setting. I have had a long-standing fascination with mental illness, and this interest was especially piqued during a General Psych class I took my freshman year of college. For that class, I had to do a research project on treatment methods, specifically shock treatment, lobotomies, and psychiatric medication. While researching that paper, I was mortified at what passed as "medical treatment" in most 1950s era mental institutes and, therefore, I found this novel's setting at that exact time period to be quite chilling, in and of itself. Lehane does a great job of recreating that atmosphere.

I enjoyed this novel very much, but I must state a couple of things about it, to be fair. Though I loved the ending and thought it all tied together at the end, it is quite a stunner. When I first read it, I started mentally shouting "NOOOOOOO! That's not right! It cannot be!" Then Lehane laid it all out nicely and I saw I was wrong. Though I thought it was brilliant, I can't argue that the premise is not a bit, well, trippy, which some readers may find too outlandish. I think that would be missing the point of reading a psychological suspense thriller, though. Outlandish premises are the nature of thrillers. Going along for the ride and matching wits with the author is the primary purpose of this genre, and I think Lehane gives the reader plenty to enjoy in that department. This probably boils down to a matter of taste, more so than anything else. Also, in the name of public service announcements, I must warn you: This novel contains a lot of strong language and a few adult scenes. It's nothing gratuitous and certainly not the worst I've ever read, but it is there, in case that sort of thing turns you off.

Shutter Island is a fast-paced, well-crafted thriller that you won't be able to put down. This is a novel you'll want to read twice. I can't wait to read more Lehane novels! I already have reserved more. A new favorite author. Hurray!


Next Time: Hmmm..not sure. I did check another Lehane novel out of the library today, but I wouldn't blog about it, for y'all's sake. Maybe a Cormac McCarthy novel or some of the historical fiction cluttered on my nightstand. I should have the post about on Thursday or Friday. See you then!


  1. This sounds like an awesome book! I heard about the movie, but what I heard was that the ending was *guessable.* Hmmm. Hopefully they didn't change the ending too much, or make it too apparent by other details.

    Anyway, I've never really been into thriller, but only because I've never read much of it. I guess this would be a great place to start. Thanks, Zella!

  2. You're welcome, Scott! Do tell me what you think of it. I adored it. In fact, just tonight I have already read about half of Lehane's detective novel Gone, Baby, Gone. It's equally as good. ^^

    I have heard mixed reviews about the movie, as well. Most of the reviews have been favorable and say the ending is shocking, whereas others disagree and do say it's guessable. I wonder if maybe it's guessable if you've read the book, so then you look for the signs. Or, perhaps, on film, the clues seem more obvious, while the book clues seem more subtle. I am not sure. I definitely want to see it, though, because I adore Scorsese films! *is a mobster film fanatic* :D

  3. Wow! Not really a crime fiction person (every time I hear 'crime fiction' I think Monty Python's "Agatha Christie sketch") but it sounds like a really cool book. Good review!

  4. Thanks, Andrew! :)

    Hehe Everytime I mention something about crime fiction, you always mention that sketch. (Not that I blame you. :P) This book is more noirish. :D

    Do tell me what you think of what if you read it. :)

  5. I just watch a short "making of" for the film on E but could not figure out what it was supposed to be about. Then I turn on my computer to look it up and see that you've written a thing on it. So I thought "screw you wikipedia, Zella's going to tell me about it."
    Thank you Zella. Now I think I will see the film. I don't think I'll read it, because crime books really freak me out. I can cope better with the films.

  6. Hehe Penguins, you officially made my day with "screw you wikipedia, Zella's going to tell me about it." That made me LOL, but it also made me grin with pride. :)

    You're more than welcome! Yeah, I can't vouch for the movie, but the book is a bit disturbing, so if that does bother you more the movie will, hopefully, not be as bad, in that way. Do tell me what you think! I really do want to see the movie. :)

  7. Hey Zella!
    I saw the name Dennis Lehane and I wondered why that name sounded familiar. I have another one of his books called "Gone Baby Gone". It was made into a movie and it was reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally good! You should read it, but be warned: there is quite a bit of profanity, and the story kind of reminds me of the Casey Anthony case to a point. But it one of the best books I have.
    Dennis Lehane is awesome!
    Great review Zella!

    Peace and hair grease,

    P.S. Crime fiction are some of the best books to read! I love them!

  8. Aly, this is so freaky that you mention that, because Gone, Baby, Gone was the other Dennis Lehane novel I checked out. I finished it yesterday and I just loved it! (I won't review it, but it will be on my Unblogged Chronicles post for this month.) I want to see the movie now! By the way, did you know that book is part of a series about Kenzie and Gennaro. I am trying to find them all now!

    What are some of your favorite crime fiction books? I am fond of Agatha Christie, James M. Cain, and John Dickson Carr, among others. And. oh, yes, I love Sherlock Holmes. :)