Book #18

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up 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 is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay -- demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy's daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy's daughter died covered in someone else's blood. 

This is a mystery slow in unravelling as Lehane chooses instead to spend time exploring childhood friendships, the effects of trauma, and the complexities of the adult mind. Although most crime novels benefit from a fast pace, Lehane did well here to describe the darkness of the deed, the effect it had on the families, and to delve into deep descriptions of the surroundings.

These three men are bound together by a childhood tragedy, then once again by an adult one. It’s interesting to consider how things bind us together, whether it be family, neighbourhoods, deeds, or words. Lehane looks into each of these with incredibly deep character exploration as the pieces of the murder jigsaw fall into place.

I don’t think there was a single character I liked, and I mean that as testament to Lehane. All horribly flawed with their own scars, all selfish to their own justifications, they were typical, real, and raw for us to feast upon. Although the three friends are main staples, I found their female companions to be infinitely more interesting. They don’t behave in ways we expect them to, yet we can somehow accept justification for their actions as their love for their husbands and children.

The book prepares us throughout for the killer to be exactly who we think is, yet does nothing to prepare us for the reveal. It’s cleverly done, with the killer’s simple reason for committing the crime to be as unfathomable to our minds as any of our imagined motives would be to theirs. It’s a stark contrast to everything we’ve been setting ourselves up for, an almost anti-climax, and yet a thought-provoking one.

A dark and winding road to something even darker; a slow-paced murder mystery with some gorgeous probing of the human condition.