THE SHAPE OF SNAKES by Minette Walters
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Back in 1978 the Ranelaghs’ marriage, none too strong to begin with, nearly foundered over the death of one of their neighbors in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames. Mrs. Ranelagh, encountering Ann Butts outside in their street moments before she died of massive head injuries, was convinced by a spark that passed between them that Mad Annie, despite the taunts directed against her for her race and the tics, especially involuntarily abusive language, caused by Tourette’s syndrome, was worth fighting for—and that despite all the evidence that she had drunkenly stumbled into the path of a passing truck, she was murdered. After Mrs. Ranelagh’s complaints to the police about everything from Mad Annie’s death to a mysterious scratching in the Ranelagh home to a sexual assault outside were dismissed as delusional nuisances, she went abroad with her husband Sam. Now she’s had 20 years to gather evidence against the neighbors who, for whatever individual reasons, beat Mad Annie to death, stole her possessions, ignored or assaulted her as she lay dying, and covered it all up. And now that Mrs. Ranelagh is finally back in England, Walters (The Breaker, 1999, etc.) unleashes a withering attack on the former tenants of Graham Road—an attack whose blistering power is only intensified by its patient revelation of layer upon layer of deception by every last party to the outrage.

Agatha Christie with the gloves off: a slow-motion train wreck of a novel that not only confirms Walters’s kinship with P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, but displays a ferocity far beyond any of their recent work.

Pub Date: July 9th, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-14733-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2001


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