Home > Book, Book Review, Reviews, Thriller > Book Review – Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Book Review – Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

November 7, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Description:

Summer, 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Along with his partner, Chuck Aule, he sets out to find an escaped patient, a murderess named Rachel Solando, as a hurricane bears down upon them.

But nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. And neither is Teddy Daniels. Is he there to find a missing patient? Or has he been sent to look into rumors of Ashecliffe’s radical approach to psychiatry? An approach that may include drug experimentation, hideous surgical trials, and lethal countermoves in the shadow war against Soviet brainwashing. . . . Or is there another, more personal reason why he has come there?

As the investigation deepens, the questions only mount: How has a barefoot woman escaped the island from a locked room? Who is leaving clues in the form of cryptic codes? Why is there no record of a patient committed there just one year before? What really goes on in Ward C? Why is an empty lighthouse surrounded by an electrified fence and armed guards?

The closer Teddy and Chuck get to the truth, the more elusive it becomes, and the more they begin to believe that they may never leave Shutter Island. Because someone is trying to drive them insane. . . .


Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane starts out like it’s going to be a simple detective story set in the 1950s – we meet Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels (and his new partner Chuck Aule) who are investigating the mysterious escape by a female inmate at Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Shutter Island. But none of the clues add up and the investigation into the impossible escape is complicated by suspicious stonewalling by the hospital staff. Teddy reveals to his partner that he also had personal reasons for accepting this assignment – he’s following up on his wife’s killer who was sent to Ashecliffe Hospital and also investigating possible illegal & unethical hospital practices. But after a series of increasingly troubling incidents, Teddy stars fearing that this assignment was instead a clever trap set for him by sinister powers-that-be.

The book is such a well-written and unnerving psychological thriller that I wished I hadn’t seen the movie version (starring the excellent Leonardo DiCaprio) first. Especially since I realized while reading just how true to the book the movie’s plot was, just stripping away small details here and there. I guess Mr Lehane is so much luckier than other authors (cough *Stephen King* cough) in that his books are adapted really well for the cinema. Oh well, it’s really my fault for not picking the book up when it was released back in 2003, and instead waiting to read it after having watched the movie first. Unfortunately, basically all the suspense was killed for me as I already knew the special plot twist in the end, and I really couldn’t separate Leo, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley etc from the book characters anymore. Totally my fault.

Still, I found the story totally engrossing and I enjoyed the mind-fuck(s) that Mr Lehane had in store for his readers. If I hadn’t watched the movie, I could totally see myself second guessing everything that Teddy encounters too, and in tenderhooks while worrying about his safety and sanity during his stay (complete with nightmares/hallucinations/migraines) at Shutter Island. It’s like a waking nightmare where you might be incarcerated against your will, and then of course that big twist in the end – and I think I’d have been nicely shocked by the reveal in the end too. Sigh, woe me.

Hopefully, unlike me, you had the good sense the read the book before the movie 😉 Would have made a world of a difference.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane is available on Amazon as a Kindle Edition ($9.99), Hardcover ($17.15), Paperback ($10.59), Mass Market Paperback ($7.99) and as an Audible.Com audiobook ($11.95).

You can also get the ebook for $9.59 at Harper Collins, but is $9.99 everywhere else (Sony eBook Store, BooksOnBoard, and Barnes & Noble.)

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