MG Mason

Book Review: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane


Having seen the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio at least three times already, I knew what to expect from this thriller. I hoped knowing the end wouldn’t ruin my enjoyment of the text and that I could take something from it. After all, there is usually much more detail in the book than the film which in itself makes it worthwhile.

It’s 1954, somewhere off the coast of New England. US Marshal Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck are called to the maximum security psychiatric hospital cum prison Shutter Island after a patient disappears in mysterious circumstances from a locked cell, passing many hospital staff including guards and janitors during her escape. But how? Nothing about the case makes sense and with a storm on the way, Teddy thinks time is running out. There is no way Rachel could have made it off the island, so where is she? And why does Teddy start to think there is more going on and that everyone is lying to him? And why are they lying?

The more time Teddy spend on Shutter Island, the more he starts to realise something more is going on at Ashcliffe than first appears – this isn’t a simple missing person case. Why are the patients worried? Why don’t they want to talk to Teddy? What are the mysterious, radical methods the hospital uses? And who is Laeddis about whom everybody seems terrified?

While there, Teddy will have to confront his own past, come to terms with a tragedy in his own life before he can accept what is really going on at the hospital. The twists and turns come fast until the final shocking revelation.

I knew what was coming, so the shock ending did not come with the element of surprise that it might have otherwise had if I’d not known what was coming. And it is a surprising, shock revelation that you won’t see coming – mostly because the clues are far more subtle in the book version than they were in the film.

The text is written in a very approachable style – easy on the eye which is what you would come to expect from a thriller. It’s also a good length; my paperback copy came in at around 325 pages so not too short, not too long. This made it a stark contrast to the dense text of other recent thrillers I’ve read, but it’s also no-nonsense. It gets to the point and sweeps you away with the story. There is not a great deal of extra content over the book and it seems the film follows it quite closely, but there are a few bits and pieces here and there that enhance the story.

A cracking read for cold evenings, even if you have seen the film I would recommend reading this for all the extra and small subtle nuances that the film could not cover.