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Mystic River
(Dennis Lehane)

When most people hear the title Mystic River, they think first of the
movie directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and
Kevin Bacon. To his credit, Eastwood remained faithful to Dennis
Lehane?s novel of the same title (which served as the basis for the
movie). The novel rates as a masterpiece in its own right.
That?s due primarily to Lehane?s gift as a writer who has an ear
particularly attuned to the way people actually talk. The dialogue he
gives his characters rings true through and through. That is just one
of the many pleasure for a reader to enjoy while reading this murder
mystery.All of the major characters are well-drawn and come
across as believable. Readers learn about them in more than a
superficial way. This makes for thoroughly engaging storytelling. A
distinctive characteristic of this work, too, is that it features a
most unusual character. And that?s a Boston neighborhood itself. By
describing as he does the neighborhood where the main characters live,
Lehane paints an unforgettable picture of a place which, in and of
itself, is rather ordinary. However, it serves as a common bond linking
the principal characters?Sean, Jimmy and Dave?with each other and to
developments in the story.While a major element of the
storyline?sexual abuse of a minor?may cause some people not to read the
book, Lehane handles that sensitive subject tactfully. In fact, by
never describing the act itself in detail but rather having characters
refer to it using indirect language, he leaves to the imagination of
readers what might have possibly taken place during the period when the
abuse was taking place. That?s a technique--leaving something to a
reader?s imagination--which can produce a far more powerful and more
lasting effect on a reader than anything a writer could possibly recite
chapter and verse.People feeling that they don?t need to read
the book since they?ve seen the movie are missing out on a good thing.
True, the movie was well-done and contained some mesmerizing
performances. (In fact, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won Oscars for their
performances in the it.) Lehane?s book, however, more than equals the
movie in terms of suspense, storytelling, and overall quality.

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