Mystic River Review
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Dennis Lehane earns his good book reviews. This is powerful, effective and muscular writing, if there is such a thing. He doesn't waste much time. Every sentence is there for a reason, only necessary characters are introduced to tell their stories, only the scenes that move the story forward are described.

Here are all the essential qualities of the best novels: great characters, evocative settings, honest dialogue, and an inevitable, tragic story. Three boys are playing together when one is kidnapped. Years later, the three are reunited in another tragedy. Compelling readers to finish such a story is not easily accomplished. It helps that the worst moments happen without witnesses -- no readers, no audience watching. We read and watch the resolutions, the effects of such events. There's no glory here in the violence; there's only a deepening sense of foreboding. We learn the most in the aftermath. Will the characters survive or crumble?

Admission: I saw the movie (read the review) first, but both are effective and quality projects. They just tell the story in different mediums.

Interesting to note that some of the best dialogue and the most powerful moments on screen are taken almost verbatim from the book. If screenwriters made changes, they are few. Why mess with the original stuff when it's this good? When Lehane describes people, you see and hear them, when he draws you a picture of the neighborhood you are there. Here's part of the opening paragraph:

"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…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 lives and never ate dessert."

More books, please, Mr. Lehane.

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