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Shutter Island
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on August 17, 2003
After reading a number of good reviews, including the ones on here, I picked it up and read it today (it's a very easy read). While it was entertaining, I did find it to be quite predictable and an amalgamation of other stories of this type. It's understandable the characters were not developed too well because of the twist in the story and too much emphasis might have given the game away but I found the book to lack depth in all descriptive areas from locations, characters and the dream sequences. I don't mean to discredit the author as I have not read any of his other books but I found Shutter Island to be a very trashy piece of pulp and having just finished reading Mike Davis' "City Of Quartz" and John Krakauers' "Under The Banner Of Heaven" I found this to be quite a step down in quality... Oh well, that's just my opinion! If you want a quick and easy pulpy thriller I guess this would rank along with the best Dean Koontz and Stephen King but if you're looking for some depth, I'd move on.
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on June 30, 2003
I have read all of Mr. Lehane's books, and all demonstrate that he is a terrific writer, capable of pulling you in with well-developed characters, great imagery, and page-turning plots. Unfortunately, he seems in this novel to be trying out a different genre, something more from the Thomas Harris or Stephen King line. That's not a "bad" thing, but it is not only entirely unnecessary but, in this case, unsuccessful. Mr. Lehane throws in everything but the kitchen sink - a 150 mph hurricane, a mental institution worthy of Dr. Channard, explosions, swarms of rats, nightmares, migraines, hallucinations: a veritable "Castle of Otranto". The whole book turns into one big "booga booga booga", without any REAL tension, scares, or surprises. The ending is entirely predictable - we've been there before in ANY number of similar novels, and therefore I was forced to ask, "Just WHAT is this all about? WHY did he write THIS?"
A very minor nit to pick: at one point, the protagonist is escorted into a large sitting room where a phonograph is playing music with piano and strings. The music sets a mood and triggers a flashback as a plot device. When questioned, a doctor volunteers that the music is by Mahler. I don't believe Mahler ever wrote anything for piano and strings, and if he did, it is not only REALLY obscure but it undoubtedly wouldn't be "tinkling". Poor research, pretension, or laziness? Your call, but that small scene, to me, was indicative of an author not at the peak of their form and probably coasting a bit.
I still look forward to Mr. Lehane's next novel, but I hope that he will go back to what he does best, rather than poach other authors' turf.
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on May 1, 2003
Just finished reading Shutter Island, the latest Dennis Lehane novel for which I've waited two years and scooped up in hardcover -- I won't be doing that again! His latest novel has a terrific pretense...two federal marshals are summoned to an insane asylum on a fortress island during a hurricane -- what could be better for chills and thrills, right? Wrong. The fact that I waited two years for a novel which could be finished in three hours (325 pages with lots of dialogue) seems more like a novella than an actual novel.
BUT that aside, the story was okay at best. I know that the author is spending much of his time working on the movie adaptation of Mystic River, as well as trying to buy back the movie rights to the first Kenzie/Gennaro novel, so perhaps that explains why so little effort (apparently) went into this latest story. While it had unlimited potential, the story came across as farfetched -- extremely farfetched -- with holes you could drive Sean Penn's trailer through. The ending was the best part of the book, but still it had a cliched ring to it. It just didn't jibe. The story meanders along for the first half and then the reader is taken along for a twisting ride which culminates in a dead end -- with a handful of implausible scenarios thrown in for good measure. I won't ruin the ending, but when you get there, you'll know what I mean.
Dennis Lehane should go back to the characters that made him great -- Kenzie & Gennaro -- and concentrate on his "art," not his Hollywood hype.
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on April 29, 2003
Unfortunately, Lehane follows his best book, Mystic River, with his weakest effort in Shutter Island. I won't give the plot away, only to say that the entire construct depends on the end, which is reminiscent of about a half-dozen movies I've seen recently.
It is well-written, but lacks the visceral punch of Lehane's best work. While the ending isn't completely predictable, it has a been there, done that feel, and most of the "secrets" can be solved with a minimum of thought (I figured out the main "mystery" in the book nearly by accident). The book also reads very, VERY fast like a screenplay--sometimes it read more like something from Crichton or Grisham (that isn't a compliment). More disappointing is the lack of crisp, standout dialogue that marks Lehane's novels.
It's a shame--at his best, Lehane's work sticks with you long after you're done reading (I've read and re-read portions of "Gone, Baby gone" more times than I can remember). But Shutter Island is more of a diversion than anything: quickly read, and more quickly forgotten.
Don't mean to be too critical--His writing skill nearly brought my review to three stars, despite the fairly weak characters. His other books are excellent, and I look forward to his upcoming trilogy. But for me, this was a misfire.
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on November 12, 2003
I had never read a Dennis Lehane book until this one. I saw Mystic River, and thinking the book was probably much better than the film, I went to the bookstore to look it up. I saw this new novel there and decided to give it a try. I found the book to be a very pedestrian "page turner." I didn't believe the dialogue or the situations. It seemed to be predictably confusing, and all the way to the end I was hoping I wouldn't get the anticipated "Shocking twist ending." It's a gimmick that's overused. And in fact, something similar was written by William Peter Blatty; "Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane." Which he made into the film "The 9th Configuration."
It felt like the author took the easy way out to conclude the book, instead of figuring out a way to make all the convoluted goings on pay off in a less predictable way.
I won't judge the rest of Lehane's work based on this one, but I wish I had read something else of his first.
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on April 5, 2004
I am a huge fan of Lehane's novels, having spent the past few months reading his entire body of work. But while his other novels push the edge of crime fiction to the boarders of literature, Stutter Island fell flat half way through the book.
Perhaps having read his other novels, I am learning how he thinks, so the "surprise" ending was as obvious as an elephant walking down the street in a tux, drinking lemonade. Parts of the novel are hard to follow, but the worst sin of all is the lack of a single character I could honestly care about. If this is your first Lehane novel, do not give up hope, his other books are great and you will be well rewarded to read them all.
Every author stumbles from time to time, and Lehane will return to form and deliver more great works in the future, he has all the talent needed to do so. But Stutter Island is one trip you might want to avoid.
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on April 30, 2004
As someone who has read and loved every other single piece of Dennis Lehane's work - almost fanatically - this book is a huge disappointment and hopefully not a harbinger of things to come. The plot is transparent, cliched, and the characters can neither be liked nor hated, nor anything in between - there is no complexity to this novel at all - I saw the end coming a mile away and could barely rouse the energy to finish it. At the end, I didn't care what was real or what wasn't, nor did I spend any time imgaining what could have happened next - I was just glad it was over and even considered putting back onto Amazon marketplace for sale which is nearly unheard of for me. I hope Lehane isn't letting his publishers pressure him to produce too much too fast - he has built an amazing reputation; a few stumbles along the way like Shutter Island are OK - I just hope they don't become the norm.
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on July 5, 2003
Maybe it's me because I was expecting something better and read the book with the constant feeling of disappointment and waiting for it to GET better or get SOMETHING. Dennis Lehane is a popular writer, a friend of a friend, and I was really looking forward to reading his book. I'm not really good at reading books that delve into other people's minds. I don't pick up well on subtleties. I felt as though a lot had happened to these characters before Lehane even started to tell us about them and we were somehow supposed to have ESP. There isn't much action except walking around a lot and talking even more. I found the book dull and boring and even flipping to the end to find out what happened made no sense. I wondered why the book wasn't on the bestseller list, and when I sent it to our library for their booksale, I knew why.
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on July 5, 2003
I know I was supposed to be be flipping pages wildly, with my hair standing on end, but I really couldn't get that immersed in the story. But, Shutter Island was foisted on me, and I stuck through to the end because the foister just might give me a pop quiz. Shutter Island isn't a bad book, it's just isn't my kind of book. I call books like these "hat tricks," or maybe talking horses. Real live book reviewers call them great "gotcha" books.
Lobotomies and withdrawing from Tofrinal aren't really very terrifying or interesting. And Teddy or Andrew? Well, I couldn't seem to care. For real terror, I vote for The Horned Man. Shutter Island? It'll make a great movie after it's made a gob of money in book form for the smiling man of the back flap.
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on February 7, 2004
This is the second Lehane I read, it was ok and a fast read but it seemed again that little details are wrong. For instance I don't believe people generally bought coffee at newstands in 1950's. The idea of people walking around drinking coffee is kind of new. I went to college in boston & worked in town in the late 60's and that wasn't typical then even (I'm addicted to coffee so I'd remember). Also he made it seem like those harbor islands are remote and inaccessible. There are little islands all over the place and not too far away from each other. I also wasn't surprised. I will read Mystic River before I see the movie however.
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