Mystic River - Dennis Lehane
Still sitting where I finished the last forty pages of this book, I've been at a bit of a loss as to what I can say about this book, as a short explanation of what I've felt about it.

I couldn't do that immediately, so I decided to go into the kitchen to heat up some water for tea. Alright, now I'll go and make that tea.

... It's a Greek play. You did not read that wrong; Dennis Lehane has written a book in the structure of a classic Greek play. It's tragic, it's dramatic and it seems to be run totally by the belief that Fate is an unavoidable ruler who moves everything according to its own whim. A Greek play that takes place in a certain neighborhood in Boston.

Drama, tragedy and suspense are the meat of this book, as can be expected. Main characters fit very easily into archetypes that do not seem to make them into cliche, but rather characters who symbolize something beyond themselves and enrich the story. One example of these archetypes would be that of the classic King, a person in a place of control whose decisions seem to ring a bit louder than those of other characters.

Speaking of roles within this story, I would also like to mention that Boston - or, at least, a neighborhood of Boston - is a character in its own right. In my opinion, Lehane has even gone to great lengths to give the Flats - the neighborhood within Boston which most of the story takes place - a character arc in its own right. I normally have very little patience for setting obsession in writers, but I really feel like I'm dealing with a case of book hangover after having finished this book. I've never been to Boston, but I feel like I am on a plane leaving the Flats once the story ended for me. Sigh.

This story also feels raw - raw in a great way. Characters who have these backgrounds and who are put into these situations feel as though they would react in the way that they do in this story. I guess that the quote of the review on the back of the copy I have puts it best; "What elevates Mystic River over just about everything else being published in the genre today is Lehane's willingness to expose the scars, as well as the strengths, of his lead characters, and let hubris take its course." (The Chicago Tribune)

That's not to say that this book is flawed in its own ways. Just off of the top of my head, fresh off of reading this book, I can point to some parts of the book where the writer was blathering on, or, as I call it, masturbating away with description and inner dialogue. Occasionally, this leaks over into frivolous conversation between characters, but not to a level where it's much more than slightly annoying. Stacking up the parts that could - no, should - have been cut out, and I can kindly say that this book could have been fifty pages shorter and the story would have been better for it. Being in Dave's head was always the most tedious experience - I think because Lehane wasn't too sure HOW to write inside of that guy's head.

I also think the climax of the story came too late and had been held out for far too long. When it happened, I wanted to roll my eyes, like it was a train that had just rolled up fifteen minutes after it was supposed to have arrived.

This book needs a good rewrite, preferably from someone NOT Dennis Lehane, but the man has great instincts as a storyteller - something I can admire due to its rarity, even in the area of fiction nowadays. He wrote its bare bones so well that the book's now very obvious downfallings were not something that stopped my reading or negated my pleasure in reading it. I really believe that this book lost some finesse that could have been given to it in the re-write as well as the editorial stages.

I especially love the ending.