Mystic river

by Dennis Lehane

Hardcover, 2001




New York : William Morrow, 2001.


"There are threads in our lives. You pull one, and everything else gets affected." When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled tip 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 Devine is a homicide detective. Jimmy Marcus is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave Boyle is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay -- demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy Marcus's daughter is found murdered, Sean Devine is assigned to the case. His personal life unraveling, he must go back into a world he thought he'd left behind to confront not only the violence, of the present but the nightmares of his past. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy Marcus, who finds that his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave Boyle, who came home the night Jimmy's daughter died covered with someone else's blood. While Sean Devine attempts to use the law to return peace and order to the neighborhood, Jimmy Marcus finds his need for vengeance pushing him ever closer to a moral abyss from which lie wont be able to return, and Dave's wife, Celeste, sleeps at night with a man she fears may very well be a monster. a monster who fathered her child and hides his true nature from everyone, possibly even himself. 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)

User reviews

LibraryThing member rosalita
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 The Point, a slightly more affluent working-class neighborhood, 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.
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LibraryThing member sparemethecensor
Good lord, Mystic River is phenomenal. I can't remember the last time I read a book that made me swing so much emotionally -- over the course of this book, I was delighted, intrigued, furious, anxious, nauseated, claustrophobic, relieved, terrified, entertained...

This sounds like a lame crime novel from the synopsis, but it is brilliant. Really brilliant. The writing is compelling, the characterization superb. I like stories that take place in the rural Rust Belt, and here, the post-manufacturing suburbs of Boston are nearly a character themselves. It's all so beautifully done. Dark, disturbing, yes. Meaningful assessment of class, yes. Plot-wise, it isn't necessarily groundbreaking, but really, it's written like a modern classic.

Dennis Lehane, you can write a novel, sir.
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LibraryThing member Romonko
For some reason I have never read this classic up to now, but I am glad that I rectified that oversight. This book is a classic at all levels. Lehane is a marvelous author, great character creator, tight plot developer and he uses lots of tension and makes us as readers look at things from a number of different angles as we read his story. He involves the reader in a way that is not that common, especially with thriller writers. This book set in and around the mythical Mystic River is more than a thriller. There is human compassion, tenderness, familial loyalties and a whole host of other emotions depicted in the book. The book is about three boys who grew up together on the "wrong side of the tracks", and then something horrible happens to one of them, but the incident forever changes and shapes the lives of all three boys, not just the small eleven year old victim. We advance 25 years to when all three boys have grown up and have families and have made lives for themselves. And then another horrible event happens to one of them. It forces all three to run the whole gamit of emotions as they each try to deal with this new tragedy. Lehane depicts in a compelling way, how we never get over or forget our past. The past will continue to come up to haunt us as we move through life. He also shows us in an unforgetable way how the sins of fathers (and mothers) affect their children and the effect they have as the children grow into adulthood. A sad, poignant and unforgetable story about life, love, loss, sin and all the consequences from human foibles.… (more)
LibraryThing member cequillo
This was one of those rare times where I actually liked the movie better than the book. I'm not sure why the book left me dissatisfied, but I recall having to push myself to finish it. That said, it's Lehane, and therefore it redeems itself on his skill as a writer. It's not one of his I'd highly recommend, and would even go so far as to say, "see the movie" instead.… (more)
LibraryThing member mhgatti
I had watched Clint Eastwood' s Mystic River only two weeks before reading Dennis Lehane's novel. While that may have taken the suspense out of this detective story, it wasn't what ruined the book for me. This is not a typical murder mystery. Mystic River isn't just about catching a killer; it's about what happens when the ripples caused by a child abduction of twenty years ago collide with those created by a current day murder.

I decided to read the novel even though I saw the movie because I wasn't that impressed by the movie. It was a well-acted film, but I thought that the writing had some weak points. I know that turning a 400-page novel into a 2-hour screenplay means weeding out some story so I was interested in what was left out. Unfortunately, very little was cut. The weak points of the movie were the weak points of the book. It tried to be about the struggles each of the three lead characters had with their wives, their families, their jobs, their neighborhoods, their pasts, and themselves. That sounds too ambitious, and it was. The book ended up too wordy in some places and too shallow in others.

The only other detective novel I've read this year was Jonathan Letham's Motherless Brooklyn. I would highly recommend that book.
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LibraryThing member jahjahdub
In 1975 a childhood friendship between three boys descends into a fistfight in the street. A car draws up and a man claiming to be a policeman gets out. One of the boys gets into the car, the other two do not. The car drives off; four days later the boy escapes and returns home. The friendship between the boys is over. Twenty five years on and the boys are grown up: one is a reformed criminal; one a detective; the one who went missing is now married and stuck in a succession of dead-end jobs. One night the daughter of the reformed criminal is murdered, and the now grown-up missing boy comes home covered in blood. The detective is assigned the case.
This is a novel about grief, friendship, masculinity, growing older, loss, family, deindustrialisation and what can and cannot be escaped from the past. But it doesn’t shout about it. It is a serious book about people marketed to appeal to the thriller fan. And it is thrilling: I read its 500-odd pages in a few days; if I’d been on holiday it would have been over even sooner. When I was about half way through and anticipating my feelings at the end of the novel, I worked out who I would need to buy this book for: I came up with about six or seven people that would just have to read it.

In the end, it did not quite live up to its enormous promise. This might be true for men of any generation, but fathers are sentimentalised at the expense of sons. Older males are stoic, admirable and possibly alcoholic: they are Men. Younger ones are shiftless, without honour and probably mixed up in drugs. There may too be a problem with the pacing - the built-up emotional punch does not hit quite as hard as I expected; and though the whodunit aspect was never overly important, it is resolved almost casually, and slightly unconvincingly.

But it was never really about who committed the murder, it is about the effects and reverberations of that death upon a community. It is a powerful, wrenching novel, disguised as an airport thriller – I won’t be buying it for you, but do yourself a favour: get it for yourself.
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LibraryThing member CatieN
Excellent book. Family, love, betrayal, crime, karma. This book has it all. Awesome ending that I never saw coming. Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member trivigo
This is essentially a plot-driven book that is better than most because of the author's overall abilities at characterization. Lehane seems to actually care about the working class people and communities he writes about here. He fairly consistently shows solid insight into human nature as he delves into the characters' feelings, perspectives, and emotions. The writing is consistently clear and Lehane does not pad the writing with pointless descriptions of locales, weather, and such.

Despite these solid plusses, though--and my main reason for seeing the novel as primarily plot-driven--is Lehane's questionable sense of focus. There are just too many chapters that play the familiar "leave 'em hanging and do a chapter describing lunch" approach. Lehane often uses such filler chapters ostensibly to do characterization, but often the details seem pointless and indulgent. The chapters on the Harris mother, on the preparations for the funeral, describing Jimmy's interactions with his father-in-law, and so on, seem to serve little purpose except for delaying gratification.

More seriously, though, were two aspects of the novels characterization that seem WAAAY off.

First, we learn about 2/3 of the way through that Jimmy is supposed to be some sort of wunderkind in the crime world. I suppose Lehane saw this as a detail necessary to support Jimmy's grasp of who fingered him and got him sent to prison. But it just seems to come out of nowhere. There is honestly nothing in the guy's thoughts, mannerisms, and especially his demeanor as a child, that speaks to anything like the sort of mind we are told he has as the book winds down. We are simply TOLD that he is a genius.

Second, there is the laughably lame explanation for why young Ray killed Katie. "Y'know, it's these crazy kids today, with their videogames and absent souls." Right. The initial accidental shooting I can buy. But the very idea that they would chase her into the woods and then savagely beat her to death just...defies credulity. I had figured out whodunit far earlier than it was revealed, and it seemed to me that Lehane had a FAR more reasonable motive to use: young Ray could have somehow found out that Jimmy had killed Ray Sr., and then seen his brother's intent to elope with Katie as yet another knife into young Ray's heart. After all, his older brother was really the only human connection young Ray had left. But instead we get this children of the damned b.s.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
This was excellent. I found myself reading certain sentences over again because they were gorgeous and wonderful. The opening sentence is a work of art – “ 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 establishes the relationship and the use of the word stench to describe the smell of chocolate is not one I’ve ever seen. And this one – “ Brendan opened his mouth, and Sean saw a dark knowledge pass through him like an electric eel.” It’s almost poetry. The command of language incredible.… (more)
LibraryThing member dailyplanit
Three young boys are friends until the day Dave Boyle got into a car. Although he comes back four days later, this event changes all of them, as well as his friendship with Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus. Twentyfive years later Sean is 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. With a lyrical writing style and well-developed characters, Lehane draws you into a neighborhood with compelling dark secrets.… (more)
LibraryThing member sarradee
I like to read the book before I see the movie. I still haven't seen the movie.

The first portion of this book talks about what would happen if two friends allowed a third to get into a car with strangers. Ultimately, even though the boy returns he is changed, and their friendship, never really close knit before is over.

Some years later, the three are brought together again. This time, however, the bonds of childhood friendship are strained even further as two are convinced the third is guilty of murder.

Lehane's excellent word imagery really captures the sense of suspense, hurt, despair, grief and anger that pervades the atmosphere of the loss of a loved one in a violent crime.

I finally figured out whodunnit, but was lost about whytheydunnit. Recommend.
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LibraryThing member name99
It has to be a special crime book indeed to keep me interested, but this lived up to the hype.
A real page turner.
LibraryThing member Louise_Waugh
I liked this a lot, which surprised me - I generally don't enjoy thrillers as much. Captures the passed-by white working class in older cities, and Boston always feels a little like home to me.
LibraryThing member JoanieS
A great book. It was my intro to Dennis LeHane and I was not disappointed. He really drew you in with his characters and the Boston setting-made you feel as though you were right there. I found it hard to put down.
LibraryThing member katen
Picked this up on a whim from PaperbackSwap. I had been meaning to read it for a while to see how the movie deviated from the book. To see how 'literary' the book is, especially considering the ending. Truth is, it's not very 'literary' in that strange academically vague way 'literary' books often seem to be. It's a solid crime drama that's more twisty than most. Lehane has a lovely clean style. It's almost a short-story style without an overage of words. Unfortunately, I've seen the movie so that taints just how much of my vision is from it and how much is from Lehane's prose. The characters are much more likable in the book. They are given slightly better motive for acting as they do, since the reader is given more of their thoughts. My one problem:


In the end, when Johnny O'Shea holds the gun on Sean, Lehane brings up violence in video games and how, you know, kids today, psycho from all the Doom they play... It's a line of thought that doesn't ring true. In the midst of talking about neighborhood and gentrification, the video game line just doesn't have any basis. Lehane never brings up the next generation growing up in this neighborhood, until he needs them. If he would have given them more grounding earlier in the book...
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LibraryThing member MarthaHuntley
This is a haunting, powerful book. There is action aplenty (two major crimes and many imagined ones), but basically it is the story of the things that shape us for better or for worse -- neighborhood, friends, family, love, memory, work (everything as in real life but faith). Three friends forever changed by something that happens when they are 11 years old. What is going on in the characters' heads and hearts is the main story; watching the movie, makes you realize it is Lehane's depiciton of the inner workings of the characters that make the novel so powerful. The action grows out of that. This book stays with you.… (more)
LibraryThing member madamejeanie
This is the story of three men who knew each other as children and whose
paths cross again as adults when the daughter of one of them is murdered. The jacket blurb whets the appetite for a book that I devoured in huge bites. The
mystery is woven so skillfully that I didn't see the answer for a while, and
once I did figure it out, the psychological twists kept me turning the pages
until the wee hours of the morning. The finale was shocking and sad, and
the ending of the book leave you hanging and imagining what will happen
next, even though in your gut you already know.

I'd give this one a 5. It's a good read.
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LibraryThing member bibliophile26
A little too gangster for me. Also, several of the characters seemed to be stereotypes, not real people. The books was definitely better than the movie though, which watered down both the characters and the plot.
LibraryThing member corbinb
It was a really good book. I read it really fast because I wanted to see how Lehane was going to tie in the events of the of the murder. Lehane did a great job never giving away what went down the night of the murder until the end of the novel.
LibraryThing member catsalive
I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as Sacred. I think this one is more brutal & stark with very little chance for redemption. It seems to be about the making of monsters: what Johnny O'Shea is; what Jimmy Marcus has always been; what Dave Boyle might have become, among others. There's very little chance that Jimmy will be caught for his dark deeds, but if he thinks Katie's death was pay back for one murder then the next spot of bad karma should be a doozy - I really hope so.

I guess I'm a bit of a traditionalist & like my baddies to get their comeuppance at the end of the book; I want fiction in my fiction, not shades of real life.
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LibraryThing member ct.bergeron
When they were children, Sean Devin, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a stange car pulled up their street. On boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened - something that ended their friendshipp and changed all three boys forever. Now, years later, murder as tied their lives together again...… (more)
LibraryThing member Jim53
I wasn't sure what to expect in my first Lehane non-Kenzie novel, after really liking the five in the Kenzie-Gennaro series. Mystic River lived up to my expectations and more. The story revolves around three men, who were friends as boys until one was briefly abducted by two pedophiles. The three go their separate ways and are reunited after a fashion when the daughter of one of the other men is murdered. The murder investigation is essentially a canvas on which Lehane draws his pictures of the three men's marriages, families, and lives. Each family is different but dealing with similar issues. The wives are well detailed and contribute both to the plot and to the characterization. Their reactions to ther husbands' actions and lives are well drawn.

The story moves at a good pace. Lehane has chosen carefully when to reveal different facts and experiences. He does a nice job of hinting at some things until the time comes to reveal them. The story is well constructed and the style supports it. Lehane slips into hyperbolic "tough streets" type descriptions of minor characters, but these sins are minor.

The ending of the story is particularly effective. We see hints of what will happen to the characters, including conflict, but no certainty. Overall, the best book I've read so far this year.
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LibraryThing member LiteraryFeline
A thriller of sorts set in Boston, Massachusetts. This is a haunting tale of three men whose pasts were permanently tied together one fateful day when one of them was kidnapped as the other two looked on. They find themselves pulled together again when the daughter of one is murdered. As the investigation ensues, the reader is given an intimate look at the lives of these three men and their families. The book was dark and depressing and yet thought provoking; after completing it, I found myself sitting there for several minutes as if the wind had been knocked out of me. The characters were extremely well “drawn” out by the author, each of them complex. Mr. Lehane is a gifted writer and I am eager to read some of his other books.… (more)
LibraryThing member adithyajones
A good one,but a little overrated..Pacing is uneven and even though there is depth in characterization,there seems to be at some points a forced attempt to sound literary which I feel not been able to achieve..
LibraryThing member CarmenOhio
Dennis Lehane is a terrific writer and this is a gripping suspense/mystery novel, and ultimately, a heart-breaking story. So very well written.




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