L is for Dennis Lehane

This is part of the Alphabet of Crime Fiction series. Big thanks to Kerrie for doing the leg work. You can show your appreciation by heading on over to Mysteries in Paradise and either signing up or cheering everyone on.

L is for Dennis Lehane

I guess I should say L is for Shutter Island since that is the only Lehane book I’ve read, but that doesn’t fit the requirements for AoCF does it now? So onward we go with Shutter Island, which is a very good book by the way. There, now that the punchline (or spoiler) of this post is out of the way let’s get down to the business of why this book is good.

I really liked Lehane’s writing. I hate it when the sentences get in the way of my enjoyment of the story. Consequently, I dislike books with pretty prose where you read and re-read the sentences because they are beautiful or mellifluous or what-have-you. Lehane manages to find the middle ground (for my tastes) by keeping the story moving forward at a good pace while still throwing in some descriptive gems.

I also enjoyed the story itself. It was mostly a thriller with some globs of mystery thrown in but everything was packaged well enough that I didn’t really miss the lack of a stronger focus on the mystery.

Finally, there is also a movie version starring that-one-guy-who-was-in-Titanic (or He-who-shall-not-be-named) which is what kept me from reading this book for the longest time. Now that I have read the book and actually found it interesting, I may just be convinced to watch the movie. 🙂

You can read more about Dennis Lehane, his life and his bibliography over at Wikipedia.


17 responses »

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Peter – I like your choice for L. And you’re quite right about the need for a solid balance between moving a story along and using really effective descriptive prose. Every writer strikes it differently and every reader has different tastes when it comes to “how much is enough.” I’m glad you liked Shutter Island and I do hope you’ll get the chance to read more of Lehane’s work.

    • Thanks Margot. Lehane has that breezy style which makes the writing look simple but as a writer I find very hard to replicate. I look forward to reading his other books.

      • Margot Kinberg

        I know what you mean, Peter. I’ve got several authors whose style I admire for different reasons (e.g. Robert B. Parker’s economy of words, Ngaio Marsh’s wit, and Agatha Christie’s…nearly everything) but don’t even try to replicate. Well, Poirot abjures Hastings not to try to be an inferior Poirot, but to be the supreme Hastings. There’s wisdom there I think. I hope.

  2. Sounds very thrilling and I will have to check it out!

  3. Interesting at that will do some research

  4. Nice post Peter. I did enjoy this book in a pulpy sort of way but I twigged quite early to where it was going when I recognised one of the anagrams, which was a shame as I would have enjoyed the big twist ending actually at the ending instead of 200 pages early! It is not Lehane’s best book though, not by a long shot – it is much more of a hommage to 50s books and movies on psychiatric themes. I would recommend his more individual achievements with MYSTIC RIVER and the Kenzie-Gennaro series much more highly.

    • Those are definitely on my list. I’m slightly ashamed to say that I never bothered to unscramble the anagrams. The thriller quality of the book made me race through the pages instead of taking the time to think things through. At least, that’s my excuse.

  5. You’re right. I like pretty sentences but not in crime fiction books where the excitement is high.

  6. Prayers for Rain was the first Lehane I read and I couldn’t wait to read more.

  7. I read Lehane’s Mystic River and enjoyed it very much. There are some things in Mystic River that will probably stay with me forever. I haven’t read The Shutter Island because I already watched the movie. Because I know the mystery, I am not sure I will enjoy the book. I would like to try his other books.

    • Hey Valli, I’ve been hearing good things about Mystic River. I think I’m definitely going to read it. And you are right about the movie spoiling parts of the book.

  8. I just watched “Shutter Island” today! Unusual movie and if the movie goes by the book, unusual book. Thanks for the review.

    • Judy, thanks for stopping by. It is indeed an unusual book. I’ll have to watch the movie now to see how faithful they were to the book.


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