I quite enjoy Dennis Lehane’s novel; I love The Given Day, quite like his Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro mysteries, and think Mystic River was amazingly written. He doesn’t just write good mysteries, I also enjoy the writing itself.
The novel begins with a prologue which reveals to the reader that when Rachel is 35, she kills her husband by shooting him. The novel then goes back in time and slowly shows the reader how Rachel got to that day in her life, and what circumstances and events turned her into a killer or her husband into someone deserving of it.
For a novel that starts with a killing, it had a very different feel than I was expecting. For much of the novel, it is a character study of Rachel. Her mother was a teacher at the local universities, a psychiatrist and a very cold and controlling personality. Rachel always wanted to know more about her father, but her mother refuses to give her any information, telling her she is better off not knowing about him. It may be one of the reasons she ends up as a journalist, as she spends so much time trying to investigate and dig into her own past. At one point, she tries to engage a PI, Brian Delacroix, but he refuses her case as she simply doesn’t have enough information for him to go on. There is something about Brian that makes an impression on Rachel, and he reappears sporadically later in the novel.
Rachel’s career and life are going great, until she is sent to Haiti to report about the earthquakes and the resulting chaos, the camps and the crimes from location. While she begins strong, eventually the public loses interest, and Rachel has to return to Boston. However, something about that location and the lack of caring from the public broke her, and she slowly begins to deteriorate, plagued with guilt and anxiety by what she witnessed and how little difference she could make or inspire her audience to make.
It isn’t until later in the novel that it veers into the crime/suspense genre that Lehane usually writes but I thought it was an interesting approach, focused more on a woman’s journey and how she breaks and rebuilds herself through adversity.