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Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane [audiobook performed by Tom Stechshulte]

February 8, 2010

Lehane is a fantastic writer of thrillers. All of his writing has an intense quality that keeps you on the edge of your seat with the pervasive sense that something terrible could happen at any time. This book, probably more than any of his other books, is laced with that paranoia. And although it starts off as a crime story, it’s really further down the spectrum toward psychological thriller, borderline gothic horror at some points. Somewhere close to Silence of the Lambs, perhaps.

The book opens in 1954, with two U.S. Marshalls taking a ferry out to Shutter Island, the location of Ashecliffe Hospital, a mental hospital for the criminally insane in Boston Harbor, to investigate the escape of a patient. The whole story is told from the point of view of Teddy, one of the Marshalls, as he delves deeper and deeper into the dark secrets of the island and the even darker mysteries of his own psyche. The twists and turns of the plot, at which Lehane is a master, are what make the story so interesting, so I won’t give any away here.

Lehane’s writing is as good as it always is, though the characters felt a little more stock than normal. While incredibly creepy, I didn’t connect with them as much as I did in his past stories. And perhaps because much of the book deals with the inner workings of the mind, I found pieces of it pushing the bounds of believability. Worth the read, although not Lehane’s best.

The audiobook is performed by Tom Stechschulte, who does a fantastic job at voicing multiple characters with distinct personalities. It’ll be interesting to see how the movie is (directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio).

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