2002 – “Mystic River” by Dennis Lehane

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane is set in Boston. I listened to it on audiobook narrated by Richard Ferrone.

Three boys spend their time together. Sean’s father is friends with Jimmy’s dad although Sean lives in a nicer area and Jimmy lives somewhere with more crime and lawlessness. Jimmy and Sean hang around together and Dave tags along too although neither of the other two ever really want him there. Jimmy is the wild one, taking risks and showing off. Sean is the more sensible one trying to conform. Dave is the outsider, the butt of jokes and the one who never seems to fit in. When the kids are messing around in the street a car draws up and two police officers tell them off and offer to drive Dave home – only they are not police officers and it is several days before Dave is seen again.

Moving on a few years and the three kids have grown up but they are all marked by what happened when they were younger. Sean is a police officer with a failed marriage and a suspension to live down. Dave has a wife but has found it difficult to hold down a job. Jimmy has been in prison but has gone straight after his wife died and he needed to be there for his daughter. Now, a body has been discovered and it is Jimmy’s beloved daughter who is dead – Sean is the investigating officer and Dave is the suspect.

This is a fast paced thriller with lots of strands which weave together into a satisfying ending. It’s a book about what it means in this culture to be a man and to take responsibility for your life and the life of others. It’s about loyalty and friendship and their limits. It’s also a story about how an event in the past can affect the present – will the boys ever escape from the roles they adopted when they were children ?

I enjoyed this story. I liked that it had more depth than is usual in thrillers. I found it very sad in places and very astute in others. I picked it for part of my 60 Books from 60 Years challenge because I had heard of the author but had not, as far as I can remember, ever read any novels which he had written. There is apparently a film of this book but I haven’t seen it.

A little bit dark but never gory or explicit this is a book about people’s expectations of themselves and others and about the dark shadow which affects everyone touched by child abuse. I enjoyed it a lot.

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