Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane



The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new -partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple-murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades–with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is remotely what it seems.

Shutter Island is an exhilarating psychological thriller that will make you question your own sanity at times.

This story works because of the writing style. It conveys an unsettling atmosphere from the first few pages and doesn’t let up until the end. The main character, Teddy, also contributes to the atmosphere. He’s a fascinating character. He’s confrontational, intelligent, and observant. His mind is going a million miles a minute considering all possibilities for all scenarios. Without Teddy being as complex and developed as he is, the story wouldn’t work as well as it does.

The psychiatrists are a tad high on the stereotypical spectrum. They are the classic idea of what a psychiatrist would be in the 50s; male, white, intelligent with an air of superiority. This makes Teddy and their interactions a joy to read.

“‘believe in god?’
Chuck shrugged. ‘Haven’t given him a lot of thought, one way or the other, in a long time.’
‘Since your father died, yes?’
‘Your father is dead, yes? And yours as well, Marshal Daniels? In fact, I’ll wager that both of you lost the dominant male figure in your lives before your fifteenth birthdays.’
‘Five of diamonds, ‘ Teddy said.
‘I’m sorry?’ Hunching ever forward.
‘Is that your next parlor trick?’ Teddy said. ‘You tell me what card I’m holding. Or, no, wait – you cut a nurse in half, pull a rabbit from Dr. Cawley’s head.'”

What I enjoyed most about Shutter Island, other than the actual plot, was the subtle The Great Gatsby vibes from Teddy. I don’t know if that was intentional on the author’s part, but I enjoyed it and found that it added more to the character and story.


Overall, Shutter Island is a phenomenal psychological thriller that will keep you guessing. I wish I had read it before seeing the movie, as I would have enjoyed it more. Teddy is a fascinating character and without him the story wouldn’t be as cohesive as it is.
If you’ve seen the movie, the book is still worth reading. There are a lot of hints I was able to pick up on because I knew the outcome of the novel.

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