Review: Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane


In 1954, US Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels meets up with his new partner Chuck Aule on the way to head up an investigation on Shutter Island. The island houses a mental asylum for the criminally insane and is run by Dr John Cawley called Ashecliffe. Teddy has never worked with Chuck before, but the two soon click. Arriving on the island, they are taken to discuss the particulars with Dr Cawley: the missing patient is Rachel Solondo, who is on Shutter Island for having killed her three children. She has disappeared from a locked room upon the island, has not taken her shoes, and has not turned up in any search that the warden and his men have undertaken. Dr Cawley seems to have another way with dealing with patients, and does not seem overly keen on pharmacology as the answer or the radical surgical procedures, either.

Teddy is warring with himself while on the investigation, still pining for the loss of his wife, Dolores, who was killed in a house fire two years before that. He is battling with intense migraines that have plagued him for years. The two marshals set out to discover what happened to the missing patient Rachel Solondo, but seem to be met with resistance at every turn, irritating Teddy but also making him extremely suspicious. A massive storm is brewing, which soon turns to a fully fledged hurricane, trapping Teddy and Chuck on Shutter Island, for better of for worse. In Rachel Solondo’s room they discover a note she has written which they come to call “The Law of 4”, and the note is very cryptic. Teddy sets about cracking the code as well as investigating her disappearance more, but it soon becomes evident to Chuck that Teddy is working an angle that he has not shared with his partner.

Teddy has been looking into Ashecliffe for years, or more specifically, Ward C, which houses only the most dangerous criminal patients. A lead he knew outside of the hospital confided in him that they do some highly illegal things in the hospital, scary procedures, dodgy government sanctioned experiments, and that they also have a resident named Andrew Laeddis living on the island. Teddy has done what he could to get the Shutter Island assignment so that he might “stumble” upon Laeddis, the man responsible for his wife’s death, the man that cost Teddy everything he ever had, and so he has come to rectify things. Chuck questions Teddy’s motivations, but eventually agrees to help Teddy find Laeddis, if only to bring the man some peace. The more time that the marshals spend on the island, the more complicated matters become.

What if Dr Cawley deliberately had Teddy brought onto the island because he knew Teddy was looking into Laeddis? Will Teddy find Laeddis? If he does, what will he do? Will Teddy and Chuck be able to find Rachel Solondo? What happened to her? Why does nothing surrounding her disappearance make sense?

GRADE 8This novel was fantastically written and had great characters to follow. It was engaging and  had humour and drama and a wonderful puzzle to follow. I am so glad that I saw the movie before I read this (*GASP* yes, I actually just said that), because the movie was such a puzzle for me to work through, I didn’t know what was going to happen and I had no idea where it was going. Teddy is an interesting character, and Chuck was hilarious. Lehane is a wonderful writer, and I still cannot get over the fact that it took me so long to get to his work, although I am going through as much of it as I can get my hands on now! The prose flows simply and gracefully, and keeps you hooked at every page. Teddy’s history is terribly sad, and I liked how the marriage between him and Dolores was not painted as perfect, making his guilt all the more palpable when you read it. The events that transpire are very interesting, and there was no fault to be found with the pacing of this book either. I don’t know, I am a big fan of the story, so this book was just my cup of tea, this is the kind of thing that I like. I would highly recommend checking out this book if you have not done so already.

37 thoughts on “Review: Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane

  1. Great book, Zoe. I specifically checked it out before the film was released. An absolute page turner and the film done it some justice. Big fan of them both.


    1. Thanks Mark! I am glad to see there are actually people out there who liked this, I cannot understand the hate it gets. I thought the movie was great and the book was excellent!


      1. I don’t get the hate? I thought DiCaprio was brilliant, Scorsese did not disappoint with his directing, the cast was good, it looked great and it was incredibly loyal to the book. I loved the story, too, and then people slam it for being stupid, predictable, slow, badly directed and acted… confusing, that’s all.


    1. LOL! Just make some time! The movie was actually a really good adaption (which, incidentally, means you will be getting your review soon now that I have gone through both materials). Thank you!


  2. Good post Zoe, i find no good excuse as to why the film evades me still. I really need to get on that because I’ve only heard and read good things on it. The book sounds very worthy of my time as well, very interesting!


    1. Thanks Tom! You should totally watch the movie, it is very good. I know a lot of people have their complaints and I cannot understand this! It is good. Let me know what you think!


  3. Nice review, Zoe! I had no idea this was a book! Should’ve known–pretty much every movie is based on a book nowadays. Lol. I feel like I might like the book better than the movie. Did that end up being the case for you?


    1. Thanks lady! Hahaha, true that hey! To be honest, I felt these two were incredibly well done, equal in my eyes (I know that sounds mad, so rare when that happens). You very well might enjoy this more than the movie though!


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