A Thrilling Whodunit | Review of ‘Mystic River’

By Cynthia Ayala

‘Mystic River’ by Dennis Lehane
William Morrow Paperbacks
Image Credit: Goodreads

As children, Sean, Jimmy, and Dave were friends until one fateful night when a car pulled up to their street and left with one of them in the car. An event that ended their friendship and forever changed their lives.

Years later, Sean is a homicide detective, Jimmy is an ex-con with a store and Dave is married, trying to keep the demons away, demons that imprinted themselves on him and whisper terrible things in his head. And when Jimmy’s daughter is found murdered on the same night Dave returns home covered in blood. Did he have anything to do with the death of his daughter? Or was he hunting the demons that haunt him? And if he didn’t kill her, who did?

Published on February 1, 2001 by William Morrow Paperbacks, Mystic River is a mystery thriller by Dennis Lehane that is a tense thrill ride.

Thrilling, no doubt about it, Lehane wove a great story that progressed effortlessly with rising tension and non-stop suspense.

Lehane develops this very intricate premise to create this very dark past that leaves a heavy shadow around the characters throughout the rest of the novel. Moreover, many small scenes show the characters slowly drift away from that moment. That shadow hovers over the characters and the story with the minimalist of details. That is smart and brilliant writing, to have this serious event at the beginning of the novel be the catalyst.

The “shadow” lives in these characters and who they are, how they talk and act, and their dynamics with one another as well as minor characters. Lehane doesn’t go into too much detail and, letting the story propel itself. The story launches this mystery thriller with a fast pace, introducing the reader to all the players in the story. Everything happens so quickly, and once the murder occurs, the pace of the novel slows down to draw the reader in, It’s hard to stay focused after such a quick and tension drove beginning, but the characterization and the investigation of the crime itself make the slow pace bearable. It may slow down drastically but for a story that is built on intricate details, it’s important that all the details not be missed, and Lehane makes sure of that. Those slow moments are some of the strongest moments in the novel because of the rise in tension. Some of those character dynamics are built solely on tension, and that says a lot, hinting at the direction of the novel, offering up suspect after suspect for the murder.

It’s impossible to say who killed Jimmy’s daughter, but the novel is about more than her death, it’s about the haunting past, those inescapable events from that moment forward that shaped the characters. All those details are woven into the text wonderfully making this such a suspenseful read. There are so many convincing red herrings that lead to such a climactic ending. (★★★★☆ | A)

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