Minette Walters The Shape of Snakes

ISBN 13: 9780754054290

The Shape of Snakes

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( 3,555 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780754054290: The Shape of Snakes

The Edgar Award-winning, bestselling author hailed by The Washington Post Book World as "a master of the macabre who imbues her novels with an intensely eerie atmosphere" weaves an astonishing tale of mystery, intrigue, and revenge.

In just seven years, Minette Walters has burst from the ranks of mystery writers to become a bestselling author the world over and today's preeminent practitioner of psychological suspense. With constant comparisons to P. D. James and Ruth Rendell and a growing American audience, Walters is poised for breakout success with The Shape of Snakes, her finest, and most finely wrought, novel yet.

November 1978. The winter of discontent. Britain is on strike. The dead lie unburied, garbage piles in the streets-and somewhere in West London a black woman dies in a rain-filled gutter. Known as "Mad Annie," she was despised by her neighbors.

Her passing would have gone unmourned and unnoticed but for the young woman who finds her and who believes-apparently against reason-that Annie was murdered.

But whatever the truth about Annie-whether she was as mad as her neighbors claimed, whether she lived in squalor as the police said, whether she cruelly mistreated the cats found starving in her house-something passed between her and Mrs. Ranelagh in the moment of death that binds this one woman to her cause for the next twenty years.

But why is Mrs. Ranelagh so convinced it was murder, when, by her own account, Annie died without speaking? Why does the subject make her husband so angry that he refuses to talk about what happened that night? And why would any woman spend twenty painstaking years uncovering the truth-unless her reasons are personal?

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Review:

Minette Walters is as much exterminator as novelist. With uncomfortable accuracy, her novels bring to the surface those creepy, crawly parts of the human psyche that most of us would rather keep hidden. Articulate, clever, and acutely observant, she eschews the standard trappings of psychological suspense and presents characters both vulnerable and deeply unpleasant.

Twenty years ago, M. Ranelagh found her Graham Road neighbor dying in a gutter. "Mad Annie" Butts, long persecuted for being black and for suffering from Tourette's syndrome, had had her skull shattered. So deeply did Annie's death--ruled an accident--affect M. that she has spent the last two decades secretly amassing proof that it was murder, and that the murderer lived in Graham Road. Her collection of evidence faithfully teases out the serpentine deceptions--and self-deceptions--woven into Annie's death; husband Sam, neighbors, friends, family, police, all are grist for the mill of M.'s occasionally unscrupulous research:

I suppose everyone has a pet subject that triggers their anger--with me it was my mother's wicked talent for stirring, with Sam it was his fear of Mad Annie and everything her death represented: the mask of respectability that overlaid the hatreds and the lies. He always hoped, I think, in a rather free interpretation of the karma principle, that if he refused to look beneath a surface then the surface was the reality. But he could never rid himself of the fear that he was wrong.

Although M.'s investigations focus on her neighbors (who range from eccentric to downright evil), they reveal just as much about her. Crafty, manipulative, and seething with rage, she carefully constructs her revenge on an unidentified murderer--and, one suspects, on the frustrations and limitations that define her own life.

The Shape of Snakes is both a gripping thriller and a stunning novel. Don't be surprised if it works its way into your library of favorites. --Kelly Flynn

From the Inside Flap:

From the internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of The Sculptress and The Breaker comes a brilliant new novel.

It is November 1978. The winter of discontent. Britain is on strike. The dead lie unburied, rubbish piles in the streets ? and somewhere in West London a black woman dies in a rain-soaked gutter. She was known as ?Mad Annie? and was despised by her neighbours.

Her passing would have gone unmourned and unnoticed but for Mrs. Ranelagh, the young woman who finds Annie as she dies and who believes ? apparently against reason ? that she was murdered.

Whatever the truth about Annie ? whether she was as mad as her neighbours claimed, whether she lived in squalor as the police said, whether she cruelly mistreated the many cats found starving in her house ? something passed between the two women in the moment of death which binds Mrs. Ranelagh to Annie?s cause for the next twenty years.

But why is she so convinced it was murder when, by her own account, Annie died without speaking? Why does the subject make her husband so angry that he refuses to talk about what happened that night? And why would any woman spend twenty years painstakingly uncovering the truth ? unless her reasons are personal??

A complex puzzle of deceit and discovery, The Shape of Snakes is Minette Walters at her most intriguing.

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