Mystic River by Dennis Lehane: A-

From the back cover:
When Jimmy Marcus’ daughter is found murdered, his childhood friend Sean Devine is assigned to the case. His personal life unraveling, the investigation takes Sean back into a world of violence and pain he thought he’d left behind. It also puts him on a collision course with Jimmy Marcus—a man with his own dark past who is eager to solve the crime with brutal justice.

And then there is Dave Boyle, a man who hides monstrous secrets beneath a bland facade—secrets his wife, Celeste, is only beginning to suspect. As the race for a killer heats up, all are pulled closer toward an abyss that will force them to face their true selves—and will mark them as irrevocably as the past itself.

Mystic River was darkly riveting and well-plotted. It was also depressing and disturbing. I was most freaked out by one character’s desperate thoughts while contemplating a very imminent demise; it trod too near things I try very hard not to think about. The whole tale was a tragedy and, while I appreciated how everything fit together, I was relieved to finish it.

It didn’t read like the average mystery story, though I must admit that most mysteries I’ve read are British and maybe a bit erudite in tone, and this was anything but. It was gritty—full of criminals, misery, profanity, and lots and lots of beer—but still thoughtful. So many important things were unspoken, in fact, that it left me wondering how on earth the film adaptation (which I haven’t seen) managed to convey what was going on in the characters’ heads. Even characters who weren’t likeable were still vivid. All that said, however, I thought the truth behind Katie’s murder was disappointing; it felt like Lehane fell back on a stereotype.

I did like it, though I’m not sure it’s the kind of book one can truthfully claim to have enjoyed. And I’d read more by Lehane. But right now, I’m left with a craving for something utterly fluffy.

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