THE ECHO by Minette Walters


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 Five years after architect Amanda Powell's husband vanishes amid cries of embezzlement, a homeless man calling himself Billy Blake crawls into her garage and, in full view of her well- stocked freezer, starves himself to death. Falling-star journalist Michael Deacon, sent by his muckraking editor at The Street to get a story about the repentant Thatcherite who paid for a stranger's cremation, doesn't manage to make Amanda weep, but he comes away fascinated both by this enigmatic woman--what secrets is she hiding under that handsome exterior? does she think Billy was her vanished husband? or is she trying to expiate his sins by paying for Billy's obsequies?--and by street preacher/petty thief Billy--what demons of his own led him to mortify himself? why did he choose this place to die? who was he before he became a messianic beggar? Deacon buries himself in the story only to see unexpected figures--an underaged street kid Billy had befriended, a lawyer he'd once crossed swords with over euthanasia, a pathologically lonely photo archivist at The Street--surge and squiggle with shocking vitality, like mutating viruses. To get at the truth about Amanda Powell and Billy Blake, Deacon will have to come to terms with an unholy series of surprises about all these figures, including himself. Walters (The Dark Room, 1995, etc.), who's spent too long in Ruth Rendell's shadow, bids fair to break out of the pack with this teasing, impassioned puzzle, which shows her growing and broadening her range with a vitality as alarming as her characters'. (First printing of 75,000; Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection; $75,000 ad/promo budget; author tour)

Pub Date: March 17th, 1997
ISBN: 0-399-14251-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997


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