Mystic River

Mystic River

by Dennis Lehane

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The New York Times bestselling novel from Dennis Lehane is a gripping, unnerving psychological thriller about the effects of a savage killing on three former friends in a tightly knit, blue-collar Boston neighborhood.

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.

A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780736661973
Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
Publication date: 01/29/2001
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 2.75(h) x 6.30(d)

About the Author

Dennis Lehane is the author of ten previous novels—including the New York Times bestsellers Live by Night; Moonlight Mile; Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; Shutter Island; and The Given Day—as well as Coronado, a collection of short stories and a play. He lives in California with his family.


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

August 4, 1965

Place of Birth:

Dorchester, Massachusetts


B.A., Eckerd College, 1988; M.F.A., Florida International University, 1993

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Point and the Flats

When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worked together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them. It became a permanent character of their clothes, the beds they slept in, the vinyl backs of their car seats. Sean's kitchen smelled like a Fudgsicle, his bathroom like a Coleman Chew-Chew bar. By the time they were eleven, Sean and Jimmy had developed a hatred of sweets so total that they took their coffee black for the rest of their fives and never ate dessert.

On Saturdays, Jimmy's father would drop by the Devines' to have a beer with Sean's father. He'd bring Jimmy with him, and as one beer turned into six, plus two or three shots of Dewar's, Jimmy and Sean would play in the backyard, sometimes with Dave Boyle, a kid with girl's wrists and weak eyes who was always telling jokes he'd learned from his uncles. From the other side of the kitchen window screen, they could hear the hiss of the beer can pull-tabs, bursts of hard, sudden laughter, and the heavy snap of Zippos as Mr. Devine and Mr. Marcus lit their Luckys.

Sean's father, a foreman, had the better job. He was tall and fair and had a loose, easy smile that Sean had seen calm his mother's anger more than a few times, just shut it down like a switch had been flicked off inside of her. Jimmy's father loaded the trucks. He was small and his dark hair fell over his forehead in a tangle and something in his eyes seemed to buzz all the time. He had a way of moving too quickly; you'd blink and he was on the other side of the room. Dave Boyle didn't have a father, just a lot ofuncles, and the only reason he was usually there on those Saturdays was because he had this gift for attaching himself to Jimmy like lint; he'd see him leaving his house with his father, show up beside their car, half out of breath, going "What's up, Jimmy?" " with a sad hopefulness.

They all lived in East Buckingham, just west of downtown, a neighborhood of cramped corner stores, small playgrounds, and butcher shops where meat, still pink with blood, hung in the windows. The bars had Irish names and Dodge Darts by the curbs. Women wore handkerchiefs tied off at the backs of their skulls and carried mock leather snap purses for their cigarettes. Until a couple of years ago, older boys had been plucked from the streets, as if by spaceships, and sent to war. They came back hollow and sullen a year or so later, or they didn't come back at all. Days, the mothers searched the papers for coupons. Nights, the fathers went to the bars. You knew everyone; nobody except those older boys ever left.

Jimmy and Dave came from the Flats, down by the Penitentiary Channel on the south side of Buckingham Avenue. It was only twelve blocks from -Sean's street, but the Devines were north of the Ave., part of the Point, and the Point and the Flats didn't mix much.

It wasn't like the Point glittered with gold streets and silver spoons. It was just the Point, working class, blue collar, Chevys and Fords and Dodges parked in front of simple A-frames and the occasional small Victorian. But people in the Point owned. People in the Flats rented. Point families went to church, stayed together, held signs on street corners during election months. The Flats, though, who knew what they did, living like animals sometimes, ten to an apartment, trash in their streets -- Wellieville, Sean and his friends at Saint Mike's called it, families living on the dole, sending their kids to public schools, divorcing. So while Sean went to Saint Mike's Parochial in black pants, black tie, and blue shirt, Jimmy and Dave went to the Lewis M. Dewey School on Blaxston. Kids at the Looey & Dooey got to wear street clothes, which was cool, but they usually wore the same ones three out of five days, which wasn't. There was an aura of grease to them-greasy hair, greasy skin, greasy collars and cuffs. A lot of the boys had bumpy welts of acne and dropped out early. A few of the girls wore maternity dresses to graduation.

So if it wasn't for their fathers, they probably never would have been friends. During the week, they never hung out, but they had those Saturdays, and there was something to those days, whether they hung out in the backyard, or wandered through the gravel dumps off Harvest Street, or hopped the subways and rode downtown-not to see anything, just to move through the dark tunnels and hear the rattle and brake-scream of the cars as they cornered the tracks and the lights flickered on and off -- that felt to Sean like a held breath. Anything could happen when you were with Jimmy. If he was aware there were rules-in the subway, on the streets, in a movie theater-he never showed it.

They were at South Station once, tossing an orange street hockey ball back and forth on the platform, and Jimmy missed Sean's throw and the ball bounced down onto the tracks. Before it occurred to Sean that Jimmy could even be thinking about it, Jimmy jumped off the platform and down onto the track, down there with the mice and the rats and the third rail.

People on the platform went nuts. They screamed at Jimmy. One woman turned the color of cigar ash as she bent at the knees and yelled, Get back up here, get back up here now, goddamnit! Sean heard a...

Mystic River. Copyright © by Dennis Lehane. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Mystic River 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 400 reviews.
clearwatersflowafter More than 1 year ago
Lehane has an excellent style. This book is a page-turner. The characters are very well developed. The story has quite a few unexpected twists and turns. He does an excellent job of describing the motivations behind actions. The story was told from multiple different character's viewpoint, which, while somewhat distracting, was also very well done. If you are looking for a feel good book, this isn't it. My husband felt it was a book about redemption. It left me feeling slightly sick to my stomach. I almost stopped reading it on multiple occasions. It dealt with dark topics, and drug them through the mud of human motivations. In my opinion, there were too many violence-laced sexual scenes. I, personally, don't care about gratuitously exploring every main character's sex life. While it's a part of a healthy life, I don't want to go crawling into my neighbor's bedrooms...and that's what it felt like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I admit, after watching the movie version, probably the 10th time, I really had trepidation about reading the novel. Because, in my not-so-humble opinion, great novels and stories (The Queen of the Damned, Needful Things, even The Bridge of Teribithia for goodness sakes) don't transfer well onto the "silver screen". Since Mystic River (the movie) was such a awesome movie (again, in my opinion), I was genuinely concerned that it would be a bizzaro world version of my "great movie, not-so-great book" (*ahem* Fight Club *ahem*). I worried were for nothing. This novel is tremndous in so many ways. The layering of plots and subplots, the suspense and heavy tension, the pacing and the overall believability of the characters, even down to their idioyncracies and frailties. So, in closing, I would highly recommend it to anyone reading this review. Gordon Lake Station, IN
McCarthy92 More than 1 year ago
I have read most of the works by Dennis Lehane and Mystic River did not disappoint. Denni Lehane's prose is excellent and he always writes great characters that the reader can relate to. To set the record straight, writers like Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and other writers like them, write books that are much more than the crime fiction class they are placed in. Books by these authors should not be compared to James Patterson. Mystic River should have been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, maybe even have won it. It was really that good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well.... I found this from a list of "Best Mystery Books of the Decade".... and was intrigued by the description. I wish I had previewed it for even a second in the bookstore. The language is so gross that I could not enjoy the book. It is on almost every page. Not an occasional appropriate to the character bad word - but horrible, unnecessary profanity. I'm sure some people don't mind this and even think it adds realism to a book. To me - it is not reality - my associates do not speak that way and it offended me. Sorry - I know many people love this book - but I think they need to be aware of the language. The plot is also quite dark and depressing. so I definitely would not recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mystic River was a far cry from the witty, exciting past books by Lehane. The book is entirely too wordly, too many useless description of everyday events and human action. I also felt there was entirely too much foul language (cussing) when the character could make the point without it. Even sever cussing in their own thoughts. I was looking very forward to Lehanes new characters, the this set of people were very mentally and emotionally messed up. Hard to find humor, plot or entertainment in a city that is described as a hell and charaters who only know hate. I will be looking forward to your next novel Lehane, I know you can do much better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fantastic read. Just when you think you' ve got it figured out, Lehane turns everything on its head. One of his best.
fraden More than 1 year ago
I became involved with the characters immediately, caring about them and eager to find out what was going to happen to them. Also, I found myself frustrated with them sometimes because they couldn't see past the ends of their noses and over come their flaws. But that's the same with us real people, isn't it?
Big_Daddy More than 1 year ago
Best thing to say about any of his books is that they are NOT predictable!! Read Shutter Island before the movie and was impressed. Discovered later that Mystic River (I saw the movie when it first came out and liked it...)was by same author. Will now buy Gone Baby Gone by Dennis LeHane also, even though I have already seen that movie also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read from start to finish
name99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It has to be a special crime book indeed to keep me interested, but this lived up to the hype. A real page turner.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was excellent. I found myself reading certain sentences over again because they were gorgeous and wonderful. The opening sentence is a work of art ¿ ¿ When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worked together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them.¿ It establishes the relationship and the use of the word stench to describe the smell of chocolate is not one I¿ve ever seen. And this one ¿ ¿ Brendan opened his mouth, and Sean saw a dark knowledge pass through him like an electric eel.¿ It¿s almost poetry. The command of language incredible.
madamejeanie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of three men who knew each other as children and whosepaths cross again as adults when the daughter of one of them is murdered. The jacket blurb whets the appetite for a book that I devoured in huge bites. Themystery is woven so skillfully that I didn't see the answer for a while, andonce I did figure it out, the psychological twists kept me turning the pagesuntil the wee hours of the morning. The finale was shocking and sad, andthe ending of the book leave you hanging and imagining what will happennext, even though in your gut you already know.I'd give this one a 5. It's a good read.
mhgatti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had watched Clint Eastwood' s Mystic River only two weeks before reading Dennis Lehane's novel. While that may have taken the suspense out of this detective story, it wasn't what ruined the book for me. This is not a typical murder mystery. Mystic River isn't just about catching a killer; it's about what happens when the ripples caused by a child abduction of twenty years ago collide with those created by a current day murder.I decided to read the novel even though I saw the movie because I wasn't that impressed by the movie. It was a well-acted film, but I thought that the writing had some weak points. I know that turning a 400-page novel into a 2-hour screenplay means weeding out some story so I was interested in what was left out. Unfortunately, very little was cut. The weak points of the movie were the weak points of the book. It tried to be about the struggles each of the three lead characters had with their wives, their families, their jobs, their neighborhoods, their pasts, and themselves. That sounds too ambitious, and it was. The book ended up too wordy in some places and too shallow in others.The only other detective novel I've read this year was Jonathan Letham's Motherless Brooklyn. I would highly recommend that book.
adithyajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good one,but a little overrated..Pacing is uneven and even though there is depth in characterization,there seems to be at some points a forced attempt to sound literary which I feel not been able to achieve..
wdwilson3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿m not a big fan of inner city police procedurals. Sometimes gritty realism just gets me down. And brutal murders and child molestation are not themes I enjoy. But Dennis Lehane is one hell of a writer, and this work transcends the genre so much that I¿ll make sure I read more of his work. All his characters have real depth, and real flaws, and Lehane¿s descriptions of their inner turmoil are often so eloquent that I frequently found myself reading paragraphs two or three times -- not for comprehension, but because they were so well written. The mystery itself was not that spectacular. I pretty well knew who did what and how things would end. Lehane¿s quality writing made it worthwhile to read on until the tragedy reached its inevitable conclusion. There are flickers of redemption at the end of the book, at least for a couple of the characters. Whether they are deserved is left up to the reader.
br77rino on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic story of three Boston men who have all gone their separate ways: one to crime, one to justice, and one to madness.
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. Family, love, betrayal, crime, karma. This book has it all. Awesome ending that I never saw coming. Highly recommended.
TheTwoDs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Boston crime story that's much more than that. Dennis Lehane, already well-regarded for his mystery novels, reached new levels of acclaim with this story of a group of friends separated by time and class, converging amongst tragedy.Sean, Jimmy and Dave are playing as young boys when Dave is abducted, molested and abused. Dave escapes but is never the same. Sean and Jimmy go their separate ways - Sean to become a detective, Jimmy to a life of crime. Twenty years later, Jimmy has gone legit after serving time in prison. His teenage daughter is killed and he wants revenge. Sean is the detective assigned to the case and Dave becomes the number one suspect.As thrilling as the investigations, by the police and Jimmy's henchmen, are, the real beauty in the novel is in the characterization. Split second decisions and reactions have repercussions far in the future. The closest of friends have now grown up on opposite sides of the law.Along with the actual characters, the locale, strongly based on Boston's blue collar neighborhoods, becomes its own character. Lehane's vivid descriptions place the reader front and center for the action.This book establishes that Lehane is more than just a crime writer.
csayban on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best book I have read so far this year. It is a powerful crime thriller, but also an engaging character-driven drama. A full five-stars for this wonderfully written novel.
es135 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once again, Lehane manages to infuse a classic genre with tons of emotion. Although, on the surface, the novel is a murder mystery, Lehane draws characters who are forced to deal with emotions from their past that have lead to their current state.
KPW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A really good book (and movie)
Nancy.Mosholder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent read with surprise ending.
silenceiseverything on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read two previous Dennis Lehane books, A Drink Before the War and Darkness, Take My Hand, and I really liked them. Like close to love kind of like. So, I automatically assumed that I would love Mystic River. Unfortunately, that didn't really happen. I did like it, but I didn't really love it. Through the first 100 pages of Mystic River, I debated putting it down. It just wasn't catching my interest and it was taking way too long to get to the meat of the story. I usually like my mysteries to be pageturners right from the get-go. In fact, if I hadn't previously read Lehane and know that I enjoy his stories, I think I would've ultimately put down Mystic River. But after the initial 100 pages, it really started to pick up steam and became one hell of a pageturner (just the way I like them). But then I encountered another problem. So, by page 100, Mystic River picked up steam. By page 120, I was 100 percent sure who the murderer was. That kind of sucked some of the enjoyment out of the book for me. Sure, trying to guess the whodunit is part of the fun of mystery books, but guessing is one thing. Being completely certain of the identity is another thing completely. Of course, then I started getting annoyed with the lead detectives/troopers on the case thinking "It's staring at you right in the face! How can you possibly not know or at the very least suspect?!" Sigh. Besides all that, I did enjoy Mystic River. Dennis Lehane always brings the gritty to his novels and this one was no exception. It was dark, depressing, and very bleak. One thing that I can say about Lehane is that he knows how to create an atmosphere. Oh yeah, and he's a superb writer. Seriously, I'm in awe of him. Ultimately, I didn't love Mystic River. I did like it, but I didn't feel that sense of adoration that I usually feel with his Kenzie and Gennaro books. Either way, I think he is slowly becoming one of my favorite writers.
Jim53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure what to expect in my first Lehane non-Kenzie novel, after really liking the five in the Kenzie-Gennaro series. Mystic River lived up to my expectations and more. The story revolves around three men, who were friends as boys until one was briefly abducted by two pedophiles. The three go their separate ways and are reunited after a fashion when the daughter of one of the other men is murdered. The murder investigation is essentially a canvas on which Lehane draws his pictures of the three men's marriages, families, and lives. Each family is different but dealing with similar issues. The wives are well detailed and contribute both to the plot and to the characterization. Their reactions to ther husbands' actions and lives are well drawn.The story moves at a good pace. Lehane has chosen carefully when to reveal different facts and experiences. He does a nice job of hinting at some things until the time comes to reveal them. The story is well constructed and the style supports it. Lehane slips into hyperbolic "tough streets" type descriptions of minor characters, but these sins are minor.The ending of the story is particularly effective. We see hints of what will happen to the characters, including conflict, but no certainty. Overall, the best book I've read so far this year.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lehane is a writer who can conjure up powerful, evocative, unusual images in a very succinct way. This gift makes his characters, settings and story ring very true, and that ¿ plus an underlying theme of hopelessness and the bitter taste of life ¿ imbue this novel with power.The story begins when three boyhood friends ¿ Sean, Jimmy and Dave ¿ are fighting in the street. They are interrupted by a car driving up, and a man who pretends to be a police officer persuades Dave to get into the car. The boy who comes back four days later is no longer Dave but a damaged soul. Fast-forward 25 years, when Jimmy¿s daughter is brutally murdered. Sean is the police officer investigating the case, and Dave, for reasons connected to that fateful day when he got in that car, is the prime suspect.Everything is connected, this book says. The future events of your life completely depend on whether you did or did not get into a car when you were eleven years old. That¿s why this story seems so bleak ¿ none of these characters can escape their fates, and eventually Jimmy and Dave stop trying. Only Sean holds out some hope by trying to overcome the cynicism that his job has engendered in him and reunite with his family.