28 January 2010

Shutter Island (Annotation 1)

Shutter Island... written by Dennis Lehane... published by HarperCollins... 2003.

Shutter Island is the first book that I've read by Dennis Lehane, but it will probably not be the last (that alone is a pretty good compliment). The copious quotes, and ads for his other books, let the reader know that Lehane is mainly an author of suspense/thriller novels. They are cinematic, and indeed, films have been made based on his books. In point of fact, the filmed version of Shutter Island comes out 19 February... directed by none other than Martin Scorsese.

Lehane's writing style is a bit different from what I normally read. The descriptions of the general scene, landscape, etc. seemed to be a bit thin... In some ways, that made it more like a screenplay (which usually gives the director, director of photography, etc. more room to play). There were a few spots in the book that it actually took me a minute to realise that there had been a scene change, because of the lack of descriptors. Also, secondary characters were also sometimes thinly described, but as I have found, that is apparently typical of the genre. The protagonist was described pretty well, and the reader learns more about him as the story progresses... especially in the latter part of the book.

I really don't want to give away too much of the story, as there is something of a mystery here... and I'm sure anyone who wants to read this book, or see the movie, would not appreciate me spoiling the surprises.

It begins in 1954 with U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels going to the titular island to investigate the disappearance of a patient/prisoner at a hospital for the criminally insane. It seems that one Rachel Saldano turned up missing one night... out of a locked room, which was still locked. They tell the Marshall that it was as if she "evaporated from the room." Teddy and his partner, Chuck, meet with the head doctor of the facility and then begin their investigations. They begin their questions and find that one of the doctors has just left that morning, and suspect that he was involved, but he cannot be reached. They continue by questioning each patient in the building, individually. They then question the staff... everyone is essentially telling the same story (Teddy thinks the stories are too similar). They discover a lighthouse that they are told is for septic processing... The thing is, however, the lighthouse is heavily guarded. Finding out what is really happening in the lighthouse becomes a large part of the "quest."

One of the Marshalls' first stops is the room from which the patient vanished. There has been a note left behind; a rather cryptic note. Teddy sees that it is some kind of code (he did a bit of intel' work in WWII). Teddy soon breaks the code, and clues begin to fall into place. This is certainly a bright spot of the book; Lehane devised a complex and brilliant code, and the reader is entranced with the way it plays out. The code is a large part of the story and comes in and out as called for.

Unfortunately for Teddy, he suffers from migraines. He has already been untrusting of the main doctor (Cawley), but he has a migraine "attack" in the doctor's office. Cawley offers him some pills, and Teddy finally gives in and takes them. Teddy later thinks this may have been a mistake. He does not sleep well, and is beginning to lose touch. This is understandable, after being surrounded by the criminally insane, on an island... and to make matters worse, a hurricane hits the island.

About half-way through, Lehane throws a wrench into the story (or puts on the brakes)... there's a... well "something" happens, but Teddy things it is all too convenient. He and Chuck continue to look, especially trying to find out what's happening inside the lighthouse.

I really don't want to give away anymore, but as with most stories of this kind, there is a "twist" at the end... which was cool, and it was a great twist at that... but then Lehane gives the story another slight twist... and I'm not so sure on that one... perhaps it would have been better without that final "tweak." I'll leave that for you to decide after you read the book, or watch the film (that is if the film stays true to the book).


  1. My eyes have had a visual workout - love the content and still on the color. ;)

  2. What, you mean you like the green? It's less harsh than the white letters for sure. Actually there were studies done in the early days of personal computers which stated that the color scheme that was easiest on the eyes, to read from a computer screen, is green letters on a black background... which is why the old computers were like that. Yeah, when it comes to trivial information like that, I'm full of it. ;)

  3. Well, I found it a bit difficult to read - but I respect the individuality of your blog style. Great new title.

  4. Okay... layout has been changed. Hopefully this is easier for you to read. ;) I just don't like for things to be too bright.