Though previously well adjusted and known as an extrovert, Acland now withdraws into himself. As he begins his recovery in a dismal provincial hospital, crippled by migraines and suspicious of his doctors, he grows uncharacteristically aggressive - particularly against women, and most particularly against his ex-fiancee. Finally, rejecting medical advice to undergo cosmetic surgery - opting, instead, to accept his disfigurement - and cutting all ties to his former life, he moves to London. There, alone and unmonitored, he sinks into a quagmire of guilt and paranoia, until an outburst of irrational, vicious anger brings him to the attention of the local police: they are investigating three recent murders, all of them apparently motivated by the kind of extreme rage that Acland has exhibited.
Now under suspicion, Acland is forced to confront the issues behind his desperate existence before it's too late.
©2007 Minette Walters; (P)2008 Tantor
"Another intelligent, smoothly plotted novel from one of our most interesting crime writers." (Sunday Telegraph)
"A remarkable, almost hypnotic book that pulls off the incredible trick of making the reader care for disturbed and highly dislikeable people. To do that takes rare skill." (Scotland on Sunday)
Walters is a master of the convoluted mystery: whodunit is not only a matter of the puzzle, but a matter of the person. the candidates' character and psychology are inextricable from motive, means, and opportunity. this is what makes her books such great reads.
in this book, our protag is a wounded iraq war veteran suspected of a string of vicious murders of middle-aged--and possibly gay--men. Charles Acland is a prickly fellow, prone to sudden outbursts of oddly controlled violence. the book begins with his slow recovery from terribly disfiguring wounds and his psychiatrist's attempts to understand this angry and disturbed young man.
it's a fitting if unusual opener for a mystery, because we cannot hope to guess whether Acland did murder the men if we don't understand his character and psyche. Acland isn't the most traditionally sympathetic of characters, but i have to say, having long experience of PTSD-damaged people, he's entirely accurate to the syndrome. that in itself is an accomplishment on Walters' part. and if the reader has ever known a war veteran, Acland is actually a profoundly sympathetic--and deeply moving--character.
i find this an interesting addition to the growing body of war literature. too little of it deals with what happens after the soldiers come home. in this novel, we get a feeling for the aftermath of extreme violence... not always pleasant, but quite enlightening.
and of course we get it wrapped up in an expertly-told mystery.
the narrator of this audiobook did a quite fabulous job of handling a number of different characters--my own personal fave is Jackson, which must have been an interesting conundrum for the narrator.
if it can be said that an audiobook can't be put down, well, i couldn't put this one down. i listened in an almost one unbroken stretch. now i'm going to start it again, and listen for the pleasure of watching Walters toss out clues and herrings and seeing the puzzle unfold.
If it wasn't because I can listen to practically anything that Simon Vance reads, I would probably not have finished this book. The story is ridiculous -- and, worst of all, extremely boring. The coincidences are so absurd that the characters themselves keep pointing out their implausibility. I have read and listened to many other Minette Walters' books. This is by far the worst one. Skip it, but don't skip the author.
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