With support from Gary Niebuhr, I’m going to start exploring the discussion of mysteries in some of my book groups. I have another boost from the winter reading program theme my library chose this year, Readers in the Rue Morgue. The first title I’m going to use is Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, the “best mystery for discussion groups” according to Gary.
But in this post, I want to talk about another Dennis Lehane novel that I think is suitable for book groups, Shutter Island. I won’t be choosing that one for a while since the movie adaptation will be opening on February 19, thereby causing a stampede at the circulation desk for all available copies (see Neil).
However, when I do, I will present all the formats of this novel to the readers and strongly encourage them to try a new one and bring their experience to the discussion.
Dennis Lehane’s second stand-alone novel was a departure from his detective series featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro as well as his best-selling and award-winning crime suspense Mystic River. Shutter Island immediately made me think of all the best Alfred Hitchcock films. I hope you understand what I mean when I say that I “read this novel in black and white.”
Of course, the typeface is black and white. But what I pictured while I was reading were scenes in sepia-toned black and white to go with the time period (early 1950s) and the setting (a storm-tossed island housing a mysterious psychiatric hospital from which a patient has escaped). Two U.S. marshals have been dispatched to the former military base to investigate the disappearance and some questionable medical practices as a hurricane bears down on the island sitting in the Bay of Boston.
I remember reading this book in July of 2003 and feeling chilled to the bone. Then a patron put it on hold and I had to bring it back. Not to be thwarted, I immediately checked out the audio version of Shutter Island as read by David Strathairn. I didn’t think it was possible to become even more sucked into the twisty plot, but I was. Strathairn laid on a layer of creepy that I hadn’t perceived in the text. There’s another audio version that consummate narrator Tom Stechschulte. A listener can’t go wrong selecting either audio book.
Now there’s a third interpretation of this mind-bending mystery, the graphic novel. Artist Christian De Metter has artfully combined black and white panels with a few brief scenes in color. He has retained the noir feel of the novel and created images of the characters that stand apart from the forth coming movie. The graphic novel is just as creepy as the source material.
Once demand for all the versions of Shutter Island have died down, I’m hoping to have a lively discussion with my book group about all the formats and which ones enhance some elements of the story better than others and how the readers’ experience is affected by the various formats. I will also ask them if they read it in black and white.