In 1954, two U.S. Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, are sent by the American government to Shutter Island, home of the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Since this hospital keeps under lock the most violent (and disturbed) criminals, Daniels and Aule are to investigate the disappearance of a patient called Rachel Solando. As they investigate, the two U.S. Marshals and the hospital's staff wonder how did Rachel escape from her locked cell (which was under constant surveillance). They cling to the hope of finding her since she's still on the island. However, everybody soon discover that besides Rachel, another criminal is on the loose on the island in a more subtle way.
Given that I've only read Sacred and Mystic River, two other books written by Lehane, I approached this book with high expectations. Did I like the book? Yes, I did, but not as much as the other previously mentioned two books from Lehane. Although the prologue, which is taken from the journals of Dr. Lester Sheehan (a staff member of the hospital), sets the tone really well, I couldn't help but to think that the pace was somehow slow. I don't know what Lehane was thinking, but I didn't see the usefulness of bringing us back into Teddy Daniels' childhood (the novel is centred on him). As a matter of fact, while I look back on the novel (I finished it yesterday), I don't see how one chapter on Teddy's childhood allows us to understand the way he lives the investigation to find Rachel and also to understand his personality (something that you need to analyze in order to appreciate the story).
Despite that flaw, I have no complaint in regards to the plot twist, an ingredient in every of Lehane's novels. In fact, this where everything falls into part in that you actually understand the complexity of Teddy's character (i.e. the way he "lives" the investigation). Besides, given the hints that Lehane left in the novel, I can't believe that I only deciphered the complexity of the storyline only at the end where we're explained by the key characters (Teddy, Chuck and Dr. Cawley) that everything is not what it is at the Ashecliffe Hospital. Moreover, it's this ability to canvas characters that make Dennis Lehane better than most thriller novelists I've read in my life (think about Jean-Christophe Grangé).
Finally, Shutter Island is not your usual cop thriller that focus on the brutality of murders or cops trying to crack a case (as you know it). It's rather a cerebral novel (and a rather entertaining one) that plunges you quite well into the depth of psychological delusion. Moreover, if you just take out the few long periods (Teddy's childhood and a few irrelevant dialogues), Shutter Island looks like a novel that flows effortlessly.