A Hauntingly Brilliant Thriller

I just completed what has to be one of my all-time favorite books.

When I first saw the movie Shutter Island, I loved it. Not only because Leonardo Dicaprio plays the lead, but because of the dark mystery shrouding it and the twists that the story leads to. I had no idea the movie was based on the book by Dennis Lehane. Sometimes reading the book is a far greater experience than watching the movie, because the movie leaves out a lot that the book explains. This is certainly the case with this novel.

Shutter Island is simply brilliant, taking so many different twists it’s hard to know what to believe and what’s real or not.

I’m sure most of you have seen the movie or even read the book, but if not, let me enlighten you on what you’re missing out on.

Shutter Island follows two U.S. Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, who are sent to the island to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a patient, Rachel Solando. Shutter Island contains Ashecliffe Hospital, which is a place for the criminally insane. Rachel was sent here for drowning all three of her children. Somehow Rachel has escaped her locked room, leaving no signs as to how she did this, but she does leave strange codes to be deciphered. And so the hunt begins.

The book takes us on a journey with Teddy and Chuck as they discover there’s far more to this creepy island than what first appears. There’s also far more to the two of these characters than we’re first shown.

As the hunt for Rachel continues, Teddy discovers the doctors on the island are conducting some pretty illegal radical experiments on the criminal patients. He becomes determined that when he leaves the island, he’ll be coming back again to shut it down.

Without a hitch, Rachel Solando is confirmed to be found again. Now that she’s back, Teddy is no longer needed. But he ends up revealing to Chuck that he has an even greater purpose for being on the island. Teddy’s wife died in a fire that was started by Andrew Laeddis, who worked at the apartment building they lived in. Andrew ended up being sent to Ashecliffe a couple of years ago, but for some reason, his records are nowhere to be found and neither is he. Answers are impossible to be had on the island. No one seems to want to comply with Teddy’s search about where Andrew is. There seems to be something very wrong with the whole thing, as if this is all some kind of set up…

As the plot thickens and thickens and thickens some more, we get the feeling Teddy isn’t going to be getting off the island. So many strange clues start coming together, but then the puzzle becomes more complex and creepy. Insanity may just get to him. Or has it already?

The big questions aren’t answered until the very, very end. And even when they are, it’s the kind of story that could easily have two alternative endings, depending on the person who reads it and how they decide to interpret it. I have one view of the story and what I think truly happened, but I can’t tell you. You have to read it for yourself and try to decipher the codes and follow the bread crumbs Lehane subtly leaves.

This book is made ten times better because of the writing. I have to say, Lehane is probably one of the best writers when it comes to description. He really knows how to transport an audience, making us see, hear, smell, and feel whatever the characters are seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling. That’s one of the biggest reasons I find this story so fascinating. It’s fun, excellently written and it manages to stay with you far longer than normal. I love books that can do that! Take this book as a lesson in how to do thrillers right. Lehane nails it!


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