Shutter Island

A Novel

Formats and Prices


Trade Paperback


Trade Paperback

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 25, 2009. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The basis for the blockbuster motion picture directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island by New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane is a gripping and atmospheric psychological thriller where nothing is quite what it seems. The New York Times calls Shutter Island, “Startlingly original.” The Washington Post raves, “Brilliantly conceived and executed.” A masterwork of suspense and surprise from the author of Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, Shutter Island carries the reader into a nightmare world of madness, mind control, and CIA Cold War paranoia and is unlike anything you’ve ever read before.



…must we dream our dreams

and have them, too?

—Elizabeth Bishop,

“Questions of Travel”



MAY 3, 1993

I haven’t laid eyes on the island in several years. The last time was from a friend’s boat that ventured into the outer harbor, and I could see it off in the distance, past the inner ring, shrouded in the summer haze, a careless smudge of paint against the sky.

I haven’t stepped foot on it in more than two decades, but Emily says (sometimes joking, sometimes not) that she’s not sure I ever left. She said once that time is nothing to me but a series of bookmarks that I use to jump back and forth through the text of my life, returning again and again to the events that mark me, in the eyes of my more astute colleagues, as bearing all the characteristics of the classic melancholic.

Emily may be right. She is so often right.

Soon I will lose her too. A matter of months, Dr. Axelrod told us Thursday. Take that trip, he advised. The one you’re always talking about. To Florence and Rome, Venice in the spring. Because Lester, he added, you’re not looking too well yourself.

I suppose I’m not. I misplace things far too often these days, my glasses more than anything. My car keys. I enter stores and forget what I’ve come for, leave the theater with no recollection of what I’ve just seen. If time for me really is a series of bookmarks, then I feel as if someone has shaken the book and those yellowed slips of paper, torn matchbook covers and flattened coffee stirrers have fallen to the floor, and the dog-eared flaps have been pressed smooth.

I want to write these things down, then. Not to alter the text so that I fall under a more favorable light. No, no. He would never allow that. In his own peculiar way, he hated lies more than anyone I have ever known. I want only to preserve the text, to transfer it from its current storage facility (which frankly is beginning to moisten and leak) to these pages.

Ashecliffe Hospital sat on the central plain of the island’s northwestern side. Sat benignly, I might add. It looked nothing like a hospital for the criminally insane and even less like the military barracks it had been before that. Its appearance reminded most of us, in point of fact, of a boarding school. Just outside the main compound, a mansarded Victorian housed the warden and a dark, beautiful Tudor minicastle, which had once housed the Union commander of the northeastern shoreline, served as the quarters of our chief of staff. Inside the wall were the staff quarters—quaint, clapboard cottages for the clinicians, three low-slung cinder block dormitories for the orderlies, the guards, and the nurses. The main compound was composed of lawns and sculpted hedges, great shady oaks, Scotch pines, and trim maples, apple trees whose fruit dropped to the tops of the wall in late autumn or tumbled onto the grass. And in the center of the compound, twin redbrick colonials on either side of the hospital itself, a structure of large, charcoal stones and handsome granite. Beyond were the bluffs and the tidal marsh and a long valley where a collective farm had sprung up and then failed in the years just after the American Revolution. The trees they planted survived—peach and pear and chokeberry—but no longer bore fruit, and the night winds often came howling into that valley and screeched like cats.

And the fort, of course, which stood long before the first hospital staff arrived, and stands there still, jutting out of the southern cliff face. And the lighthouse beyond, out of service since before the Civil War, rendered obsolete by the beam of Boston Light.

From the sea, it didn’t look like much. You have to picture it the way Teddy Daniels saw it on that calm morning in September of 1954. A scrub plain in the middle of the outer harbor. Barely an island, you’d think, so much as the idea of one. What purpose could it have, he may have thought. What purpose.

Rats were the most voluminous of our animal life. They scrabbled in the brush, formed lines along the shore at night, clambered over wet rock. Some were the size of flounder. In the years following those four strange days of late summer 1954, I took to studying the rats from a cut in the hill overlooking the northern shore. I was fascinated to discover that some of the rats would try to swim for Paddock Island, little more than a rock in a cupful of sand that remained submerged twenty-two hours out of every day. When it appeared for that hour or two as the current reached its lowest ebb, sometimes they’d swim for it, these rats, never more than a dozen or so and always driven back by the riptide.

I say always, but no. I saw one make it. Once. The night of the harvest moon in October ’56. I saw its black moccasin of a body dart across the sand.

Or so I think. Emily, whom I met on the island, will say, “Lester, you couldn’t have. It was too far away.”

She’s right.

And yet I know what I saw. One fat moccasin darting across the sand, sand that was pearl gray and already beginning to drown again as the current returned to swallow Paddock Island, swallow that rat, I assume, for I never saw it swim back.

But in that moment, as I watched it scurry up the shore (and I did, I saw it, distances be damned), I thought of Teddy. I thought of Teddy and his poor dead wife, Dolores Chanal, and those twin terrors, Rachel Solando and Andrew Laeddis, the havoc they wreaked on us all. I thought that if Teddy were sitting with me, he would have seen that rat too. He would have.

And I’ll tell you something else:


He would have clapped.




TEDDY DANIELS’S FATHER had been a fisherman. He lost his boat to the bank in ’31 when Teddy was eleven, spent the rest of his life hiring onto other boats when they had the work, unloading freight along the docks when they didn’t, going long stretches when he was back at the house by ten in the morning, sitting in an armchair, staring at his hands, whispering to himself occasionally, his eyes gone wide and dark.

He’d taken Teddy out to the islands when Teddy was still a small boy, too young to be much help on the boat. All he’d been able to do was untangle the lines and tie off the hooks. He’d cut himself a few times, and the blood dotted his fingertips and smeared his palms.

They’d left in the dark, and when the sun appeared, it was a cold ivory that pushed up from the edge of the sea, and the islands appeared out of the fading dusk, huddled together, as if they’d been caught at something.

Teddy saw small, pastel-colored shacks lining the beach of one, a crumbling limestone estate on another. His father pointed out the prison on Deer Island and the stately fort on Georges. On Thompson, the high trees were filled with birds, and their chatter sounded like squalls of hail and glass.

Out past them all, the one they called Shutter lay like something tossed from a Spanish galleon. Back then, in the spring of ’28, it had been left to itself in a riot of its own vegetation, and the fort that stretched along its highest point was strangled in vines and topped with great clouds of moss.

“Why Shutter?” Teddy asked.

His father shrugged. “You with the questions. Always the questions.”

“Yeah, but why?”

“Some places just get a name and it sticks. Pirates probably.”

“Pirates?” Teddy liked the sound of that. He could see them—big men with eye patches and tall boots, gleaming swords.

His father said, “This is where they hid in the old days.” His arm swept the horizon. “These islands. Hid themselves. Hid their gold.”

Teddy imagined chests of it, the coins spilling down the sides.

Later he got sick, repeatedly and violently, pitching black ropes of it over the side of his father’s boat and into the sea.

His father was surprised because Teddy hadn’t begun to vomit until hours into the trip when the ocean was flat and glistening with its own quiet. His father said, “It’s okay. It’s your first time. Nothing to be ashamed of.”

Teddy nodded, wiped his mouth with a cloth his father gave him.

His father said, “Sometimes there’s motion, and you can’t even feel it until it climbs up inside of you.”

Another nod, Teddy unable to tell his father that it wasn’t motion that had turned his stomach.

It was all that water. Stretched out around them until it was all that was left of the world. How Teddy believed that it could swallow the sky. Until that moment, he’d never known they were this alone.

He looked up at his father, his eyes leaking and red, and his father said, “You’ll be okay,” and Teddy tried to smile.

His father went out on a Boston whaler in the summer of ’38 and never came back. The next spring, pieces of the boat washed up on Nantasket Beach in the town of Hull, where Teddy grew up. A strip of keel, a hot plate with the captain’s name etched in the base, cans of tomato and potato soup, a couple of lobster traps, gap-holed and misshapen.

They held the funeral for the four fishermen in St. Theresa’s Church, its back pressed hard against the same sea that had claimed so many of its parishioners, and Teddy stood with his mother and heard testimonials to the captain, his first mate, and the third fisherman, an old salt named Gil Restak, who’d terrorized the bars of Hull since returning from the Great War with a shattered heel and too many ugly pictures in his head. In death, though, one of the bartenders he’d terrorized had said, all was forgiven.

The boat’s owner, Nikos Costa, admitted that he’d barely known Teddy’s father, that he’d hired on at the last minute when a crew member broke his leg in a fall from a truck. Still, the captain had spoken highly of him, said everyone in town knew that he could do a day’s work. And wasn’t that the highest praise one could give a man?

Standing in that church, Teddy remembered that day on his father’s boat because they’d never gone out again. His father kept saying they would, but Teddy understood that he said this only so his son could hold on to some pride. His father never acknowledged what had happened that day, but a look had passed between them as they headed home, back through the string of islands, Shutter behind them, Thompson still ahead, the city skyline so clear and close you’d think you could lift a building by its spire.

“It’s the sea,” his father said, a hand lightly rubbing Teddy’s back as they leaned against the stern. “Some men take to it. Some men it takes.”

And he’d looked at Teddy in such a way that Teddy knew which of those men he’d probably grow up to be.


TO GET THERE in ’54, they took the ferry from the city and passed through a collection of other small, forgotten islands—Thompson and Spectacle, Grape and Bumpkin, Rainford and Long—that gripped the scalp of the sea in hard tufts of sand, wiry trees, and rock formations as white as bone. Except for supply runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the ferry ran on an irregular schedule and the galley was stripped of everything but the sheet metal that covered the floor and two steel benches that ran under the windows. The benches were bolted to the floor and bolted to thick black posts at both ends, and manacles and their chains hung in spaghetti piles from the posts.

The ferry wasn’t transporting patients to the asylum today, however, just Teddy and his new partner, Chuck Aule, a few canvas bags of mail, a few cases of medical supplies.

Teddy started the trip down on his knees in front of the toilet, heaving into the bowl as the ferry’s engine chugged and clacked and Teddy’s nasal passages filled with the oily smells of gasoline and the late-summer sea. Nothing came out of him but small streams of water, yet his throat kept constricting and his stomach banged up against the base of his esophagus and the air in front of his face spun with motes that blinked like eyes.

The final heave was followed by a globe of trapped oxygen that seemed to carry a piece of his chest with it as it exploded from his mouth, and Teddy sat back on the metal floor and wiped his face with his handkerchief and thought how this wasn’t the way you wanted to start a new partnership.

He could just imagine Chuck telling his wife back home—if he had a wife; Teddy didn’t even know that much about him yet—about his first encounter with the legendary Teddy Daniels. “Guy liked me so much, honey, he threw up.”

Since that trip as a boy, Teddy had never enjoyed being out on the water, took no pleasure from such a lack of land, of visions of land, things you could reach out and touch without your hands dissolving into them. You told yourself it was okay—because that’s what you had to do to cross a body of water—but it wasn’t. Even in the war, it wasn’t the storming of the beaches he feared so much as those last few yards from the boats to the shore, legs slogging through the depths, strange creatures slithering over your boots.

Still, he’d prefer to be out on deck, facing it in the fresh air, rather than back here, sickly warm, lurching.

When he was sure it had passed, his stomach no longer bubbling, his head no longer swimming, he washed his hands and face, checked his appearance in a small mirror mounted over the sink, most of the glass eroded by sea salt, a small cloud in the center where Teddy could just make out his reflection, still a relatively young man with a government-issue crew cut. But his face was lined with evidence of the war and the years since, his penchant for the dual fascinations of pursuit and violence living in eyes Dolores had once called “dog-sad.”

I’m too young, Teddy thought, to look this hard.

He adjusted his belt around his waist so the gun and holster rested on his hip. He took his hat from the top of the toilet and put it back on, adjusted the brim until it tilted just slightly to the right. He tightened the knot in his tie. It was one of those loud floral ties that had been going out of style for about a year, but he wore it because she had given it to him, slipped it over his eyes one birthday as he sat in the living room. Pressed her lips to his Adam’s apple. A warm hand on the side of his cheek. The smell of an orange on her tongue. Sliding into his lap, removing the tie, Teddy keeping his eyes closed. Just to smell her. To imagine her. To create her in his mind and hold her there.

He could still do it—close his eyes and see her. But lately, white smudges would blur parts of her—an earlobe, her eyelashes, the contours of her hair. It didn’t happen enough to fully obscure her yet, but Teddy feared time was taking her from him, grinding away at the picture frames in his head, crushing them.

“I miss you,” he said, and went out through the galley to the foredeck.

It was warm and clear out there, but the water was threaded with dark glints of rust and an overall pallor of gray, a suggestion of something growing dark in the depths, massing.

Chuck took a sip from his flask and tilted the neck in Teddy’s direction, one eyebrow cocked. Teddy shook his head, and Chuck slipped it back into his suit pocket, pulled the flaps of his overcoat around his hips, and looked out at the sea.

“You okay?” Chuck asked. “You look pale.”

Teddy shrugged it off. “I’m fine.”


Teddy nodded. “Just finding my sea legs.”

They stood in silence for a bit, the sea undulating all around them, pockets of it as dark and silken as velvet.

“You know it used to be a POW camp?” Teddy said.

Chuck said, “The island?”

Teddy nodded. “Back in the Civil War. They built a fort there, barracks.”

“What do they use the fort for now?”

Teddy shrugged. “Couldn’t tell you. There’s quite a few of them out here on the different islands. Most of them were target practice for artillery shells during the war. Not too many left standing.”

“But the institution?”

“From what I could tell, they use the old troop quarters.”

Chuck said, “Be like going back to basic, huh?”

“Don’t wish that on us.” Teddy turned on the rail. “So what’s your story there, Chuck?”

Chuck smiled. He was a bit stockier and a bit shorter than Teddy, maybe five ten or so, and he had a head of tight, curly black hair and olive skin and slim, delicate hands that seemed incongruous with the rest of him, as if he’d borrowed them until his real ones came back from the shop. His left cheek bore a small scythe of a scar, and he tapped it with his index finger.

“I always start with the scar,” he said. “People usually ask sooner or later.”


“Wasn’t from the war,” Chuck said. “My girlfriend says I should just say it was, be done with it, but…” He shrugged. “It was from playing war, though. When I was a kid. Me and this other kid shooting slingshots at each other in the woods. My friend’s rock just misses me, so I’m okay, right?” He shook his head. “His rock hit a tree, sent a piece of bark into my cheek. Hence the scar.”

“From playing war.”

“From playing it, yeah.”

“You transferred from Oregon?”

“Seattle. Came in last week.”

Teddy waited, but Chuck didn’t offer any further explanation.

Teddy said, “How long you been with the marshals?”

“Four years.”

“So you know how small it is.”

“Sure. You want to know how come I transferred.” Chuck nodded, as if deciding something for himself. “If I said I was tired of rain?”

Teddy turned his palms up above the rail. “If you said so…”

“But it’s small, like you said. Everyone knows everyone in the service. So eventually, there’ll be—what do they call it?—scuttlebutt.”

“That’s word for it.”

“You caught Breck, right?”

Teddy nodded.

“How’d you know where he’d go? Fifty guys chasing him, they all went to Cleveland. You went to Maine.”

“He’d summered there once with his family when he was a kid. That thing he did with his victims? It’s what you do to horses. I talked to an aunt. She told me the only time he was ever happy was at a horse farm near this rental cottage in Maine. So I went up there.”

“Shot him five times,” Chuck said and looked down the bow at the foam.

“Would have shot him five more,” Teddy said. “Five’s what it took.”

Chuck nodded and spit over the rail. “My girlfriend’s Japanese. Well, born here, but you know…Grew up in a camp. There’s still a lot of tension out there—Portland, Seattle, Tacoma. No one likes me being with her.”

“So they transferred you.”

Chuck nodded, spit again, watched it fall into the churning foam.

“They say it’s going to be big,” he said.

Teddy lifted his elbows off the rail and straightened. His face was damp, his lips salty. Somewhat surprising that the sea had managed to find him when he couldn’t recall the spray hitting his face.

He patted the pockets of his overcoat, looking for his Chesterfields. “Who’s ’they’? What’s ’it’?”

“They. The papers,” Chuck said. “The storm. Big one, they say. Huge.” He waved his arm at the pale sky, as pale as the foam churning against the bow. But there, along its southern edge, a thin line of purple cotton swabs grew like ink blots.

Teddy sniffed the air. “You remember the war, don’t you, Chuck?”

Chuck smiled in such a way that Teddy suspected they were already tuning in to each other’s rhythms, learning how to fuck with each other.

“A bit,” Chuck said. “I seem to remember rubble. Lots of rubble. People denigrate rubble, but I say it has its place. I say it has its own aesthetic beauty. I say it’s all in the eye of the beholder.”

“You talk like a dime novel. Has anyone else told you that?”

“It’s come up.” Chuck giving the sea another of his small smiles, leaning over the bow, stretching his back.

Teddy patted his trouser pockets, searched the inside pockets of his suit jacket. “You remember how often the deployments were dependent on weather reports.”

Chuck rubbed the stubble on his chin with the heel of his hand. “Oh, I do, yes.”

“Do you remember how often those weather reports proved correct?”

Chuck furrowed his brow, wanting Teddy to know he was giving this due and proper consideration. Then he smacked his lips and said, “About thirty percent of the time, I’d venture.”

“At best.”

Chuck nodded. “At best.”

“And so now, back in the world as we are…”

“Oh, back we are,” Chuck said. “Ensconced, one could even say.”

Teddy suppressed a laugh, liking this guy a lot now. Ensconced. Jesus.

“Ensconced,” Teddy agreed. “Why would you put any more credence in the weather reports now than you did then?”

“Well,” Chuck said as the sagging tip of a small triangle peeked above the horizon line, “I’m not sure my credence can be measured in terms of less or more. Do you want a cigarette?”

Teddy stopped in the middle of a second round of pocket pats, found Chuck watching him, his wry grin etched into his cheeks just below the scar.

“I had them when I boarded,” Teddy said.

Chuck looked back over his shoulder. “Government employees. Rob you blind.” Chuck shook a cigarette free of his pack of Luckies, handed one to Teddy, and lit it for him with his brass Zippo, the stench of the kerosene climbing over the salt air and finding the back of Teddy’s throat. Chuck snapped the lighter closed, then flicked it back open with a snap of his wrist and lit his own.

Teddy exhaled, and the triangle tip of the island disappeared for a moment in the plume of smoke.

“Overseas,” Chuck said, “When a weather report dictated if you went to the drop zone with your parachute pack or set off for the beachhead, well, there was much more at stake, wasn’t there?”


“But back home, where’s the harm in a little arbitrary faith? That’s all I’m saying, boss.”

It began to reveal itself to them as more than a triangle tip, the lower sections gradually filling in until the sea stretched out flat again on the other side of it and they could see colors filling in as if by brush stroke—a muted green where the vegetation grew unchecked, a tan strip of shoreline, the dull ochre of cliff face on the northern edge. And at the top, as they churned closer, they began to make out the flat rectangular edges of buildings themselves.

“It’s a pity,” Chuck said.

“What’s that?”

“The price of progress.” He placed one foot on the towline and leaned against the rail beside Teddy, and they watched the island attempt to define itself. “With the leaps—and there are leaps going on, don’t kid yourself, leaps every day—happening in the field of mental health, a place like this will cease to exist. Barbaric they’ll call it twenty years from now. An unfortunate by-product of the bygone Victorian influence. And go it should, they’ll say. Incorporation, they’ll say. Incorporation will be the order of the day. You are all welcomed into the fold. We will soothe you. Rebuild you. We are all General Marshalls. We are a new society, and there is no place for exclusion. No Elbas.”

The buildings had disappeared again behind the trees, but Teddy could make out the fuzzy shape of a conical tower and then hard, jutting angles he took to be the old fort.

“But do we lose our past to assure our future?” Chuck flicked his cigarette out into the foam. “That’s the question. What do you lose when you sweep a floor, Teddy? Dust. Crumbs that would otherwise draw ants. But what of the earring she misplaced? Is that in the trash now too?”

Teddy said, “Who’s ’she’? Where did ’she’ come from, Chuck?”

“There’s always a she. Isn’t there?”

On Sale
Aug 25, 2009
Page Count
400 pages