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The Mystic River Analysis Essay

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Updated: Dec 25th, 2018

Dennis Lehane is a prolific author who has over five famous book titles under his belt. Most of his novels feature a pair of private investigators namely Angie Gennaro and Patrick Kenzie. Like his other books, “Mystic River” features the mystery literature genre. Dennis Lehane was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts and he has lived in Boston for some time. Most of his books are set in the Boston area and this makes his fiction a lot more credible.

Prior to writing “Mystic River” the author had written “Darkness, Taken My Hand”, “Gone Baby Gone”, and “Prayers for Rain”. Lehane’s work has been compared to that of fellow mystery writers like James Crumley and Lee Burke.”Mystic River” has won several literary awards including the Anthony Mystery Award and the Barry Best Novel Award. The book focuses on three childhood friends whose lives are changed by the events of a single day.

The book’s story takes place in two periods that are divided by a period of twenty-five years. In this book, three boys namely Sean Devine, Dave Boyle, and Jimmy Marcus are very close as children. Their lives are turned upside down when a strange car with two men approaches them to take a ride in the men’s car.

Only Dave accepts this offer while the other two decline. After this event, Dave goes missing triggering a police search. During the police search, the two friends cannot identify the car and all they can say about the abductors’ car is that it smelled like apples. Dave returns after four days and to the chagrin of the town residents, he reveals nothing about what had happened to him. His silence triggers a lot of suspicion and rumors that he had been molested during his abduction.

The book then fast-forwards to twenty-five years after the abduction. During this time, Sean has become a homicide detective, Jimmy has already been convicted for armed robbery, and Dave is a married man who is living a very complicated life. As a homicide detective, Sean has a habit of second-guessing his actions. Jimmy is trying to reclaim his life as citizen after spending time in jail.

He also has a wife and a nineteen-year old daughter named Katie. Although life is particularly tough for Jimmy, he does all he can to avoid falling back into his old ways. Neither Jimmy nor Sean has any serious connections to their old friend Dave. Dave is now married to Celeste with whom he has one child. Celeste is a faithful wife who never questions her husband’s actions including his past ones.

The lives of these three men are once again upset by the disappearance and the consequent murder of Jimmy’s daughter. Matters become even more complicated when the investigation points towards Dave as the main suspect. The title of the book refers to the river in which bodies and murder weapons are dumped.

The “Mystic River” does not play by the usual murder mystery rules. However, the novel still pays homage to this classic genre. The book is set up in a thriller format where the three main characters are mysteriously placed.

The events that happen during their childhood and during their adulthood merge to encompass a thriller. The mystery surrounding Dave is particularly essential to the novel. All the other characters including his wife are suspicious about his involvement in the disappearance of Katie. Nevertheless, none of them has enough evidence to pin him to the murder.

The book begins with a mystery where one boy gets into a strange car, disappears for four days, and reappears without any explanations. The mysteries are successive including the one where Dave comes home with bloodied clothes and does not give any plausible explanation. All these mysteries point the book in the direction of a thriller. Lehance’s other books tend to lean heavily on private detectives with a strong emphasis on character sets.

The “Mystic River” seems to be a break from this tradition with a lot of effort going towards circumventing the confinements of the murder mystery genre. The author of this book has admitted to being influenced by authors such as Andre Dubus and Raymond Carver. Both of these authors tend to forego the long narrations that characterize murder mystery. This book is a captivating psychological thriller that also addresses the love and loyalty of friends and family.

One of the main themes of this book is the connection between the past and the present. The power of past events is evident in the main characters’ lives. When Dave got into the car with strangers, the events that transpired seem to follow him for the rest of his life.

The fact that Sean and Jimmy witnessed the abduction created a seemingly permanent connection between them and Dave. In one instance, Sean questions how their lives would have turned out if they had all got into the car with Dave. On the other hand, Dave does not understand why he had to go through the abduction ordeal alone.

The past connection between these three friends is what makes the murder investigation complicated because it tests their past ties. Sean’s detective activities also seem to be shaped by his past. During Katie’s murder investigation, he argues that people are bad because they leave for no reason and then turn up dead or worse. This quip is a reference to Dave’s childhood abduction where he disappeared and then turned up severely disturbed.

One of the successes of this book is its portrayal of characters. The author is able to capture the intricate inner life of the book’s characters. The book forwards vivid, intimate, and moving characters that intensely captivate readers’ attention. This form of character portrayal is usually a preserve of screenplays.

However, it is very effective when it is employed in this book. Sean’s detective character stands out because of the author’s deep understanding of police characters. The success of the book’s characters is also achieved through the powerful conflict depiction techniques that are used in this book. The author is also able to create conflict from within the characters. This can be exemplified by the powerful inner monologues and narrations in the book.

The “Mystic River” is a book that achieves several literary successes. From the book’s strongly accentuated psychological thriller tendencies to its leisurely pacing, the book is able to captivate readers in a unique way. The secret of the book’s success is its balancing act.

The author foregoes the usual long narrations in order to give the book a faster pace. The book’s prose is able to paint vivid images without appearing repetitive or exaggerative. The success of this book was acknowledged when it was adapted into an award-winning movie that featured a star-studded cast.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "The Mystic River Analysis." December 25, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mystic-river-analysis/.


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