n 1954 widower U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule go to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient, multiple murderess Rachel Solando, who has escaped her cell and apparently the desolate barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant supervision.
Visiting Rachel's room, Teddy and Chuck discover a puzzle that Teddy believes points to a 67th patient. Teddy also reveals to Chuck that he is there to avenge the death of his wife Dolores, who was murdered two years prior by one of the inmates, Andrew Laeddis. The novel is interspersed with graphic descriptions of WW II and Dachau which Teddy helped to liberate. As a hurricane hits the island, Teddy and Chuck investigate Ward C where Teddy believes government experiments with psychotropic drugs à la concentration camps and gulags are being conducted. One inmate tells Teddy that Chuck is not to be trusted.