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!