Book #45

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

The year is 1954. 

U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. 

As a killer hurricane relentlessly bears down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades—with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. 

No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. But then neither is Teddy Daniels.

I’ve always loved this novel. Never knowing who to trust, nothing being quite as it seems, twists, wildcards, no real certainty - it’s gorgeous.

Lehane gives a lot here, much of it feeling chaotic and cluttered, particularly towards the finale. It’s tempting to lose patience here, but it felt akin to the mind of our protagonist attempting to piece together information which was being received.

One of the most frightening things shown to us, which is present in real life also, is that once one is proclaimed insane, any protestations you make to the contrary only add to the argument against you.

The twist is bloody glorious, a true mindbend, and Lehane’s writing is skilful, allowing most scenes to be interpreted from two different angles. It would be such a joy to read this again without knowing the book’s secrets, but sadly I am decades past that joy.