Click here to read Maryann Miller's review of Shutter Island.
Set in 1954, Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island is like M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense. The novel captivates and submerges the reader in a constant and eerie surrealism. The mystery is founded on confusion and vague facts; nothing seems real, or authentic. Nothing makes much sense...until the end. The entire time, Lehane is building toward something explosive and deadly, and the last one hundred pages deliver a climax of mind-rattling intensity.
A ferry runs every few days from the shores of Boston to Aschecliffe Hospital located on Shutter Island. The hospital, for the most criminally insane people, can easily care for two hundred people, but there are less than seventy patients on the island when U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule arrived. They have been sent to assist in locating a missing psychotic female patient, Rachel Solando.
Apparently, Solando has done the impossible and managed to escape from of a locked cell, slip unseen past a group of orderlies playing cards, and get beyond two other guarded checkpoints. It would be an impossible swim from the island back to land, so Solando must still be somewhere on the island. But where? Perhaps the secret coded message she left behind will be just the clue the marshals need to help solve the unexplainable disappearance.
Teddy Daniels jumped at the assignment when it came up. He is concerned about finding the missing patient, but he is also full of ulterior motives. When his wife died in an apartment fire, the fire-starter was sentenced to spend the rest of his life at Aschecliffe. Part of him wants to confront the man responsible for his wife's death. Part of him wants to kill the guy.
Daniels has been making waves back home, talking up a storm about the island and its experimental treatment on patients and off-the-wall psychology theories. After all, the island has three wards housed in separate buildings and the island's lighthouse is quarantined off by an electrical fence, and armed guards. Something is taking place in that lighthouse, and it's his job to get to the bottom of things.
Perhaps there is sinister plot behind his visit to the isolated hospital. Maybe he didn't choose the assignment; maybe the assignment chose him. When his partner disappears, it confirms that his own life is in jeopardy. The doctors are playing with him, in the same disturbing way in which they play with their patients. He needs to get off the island or risk becoming a patient himself, trapped, drugged and restrained forever.
Shutter Island is a wild ride, an impressive mystery, and an intense psychological thriller. Dennis Lehane is a talented writer, one who understands what readers want and expect in a suspense novel, and he gives it to them in overdose quantities.