Allen & Unwin, 2007
Reviewed by Sally Roddom
After a road bomb attack in Iraq, Charles Acland wakes up in hospital.
Serious head injuries have left him with amnesia and facial disfigurement.
He also seems to have had a change in personality. Rather than being happy
and personable, he has become angry and violent, particularly towards
women. It is soon revealed that his ex-fiancée, Jen, dumped him the day he
flew off to Iraq. Now, she wants him back. But Acland won’t have anything
to do with her, and won’t reveal to his shrink exactly why the
relationship went wrong in the first place. Acland refuses to have
corrective surgery and discharges himself from hospital.
When he picks a fight in a pub, the police start looking at him as a
suspect in several unsolved murders. Elderly men are being beaten to death
and the only connection is their military backgrounds and homosexual
leanings. The police are stuck, so Acland’s intolerance and short fuse
make him a likely candidate. Acland struggles to come to terms with his
new life at the same time he tries to prove his innocence.
Despite his moodiness, Acland has friends. Jackson, a female weight lifter
and General Practitioner, is one of the owners of the pub where he picked
the fight. She and her partner, Daisy, take him on as a boarder.
Acland is the stereotypical damaged hero – so damaged that you wonder
whether Walters has finally decided to let the most obvious person
actually be the murderer. Especially when it becomes apparent that he was
in fact in London without an alibi when each of the murders occurred.
Minette Walters has looked at damaged minds before – she does it well.
Each of her books is very different. She does not write to a formula so
the reader never knows where she is going to take them. She does use a
favourite technique in this book. She links the story with a background
series of letters, newspaper clippings, Police and Medical reports. I find
this technique to be very effective in providing vital information, or red
herrings. I did have two little gripes. Firstly, I did suspect who the
murderer was, and was proven correct at the end. Secondly, there was
constant reference to the character Jen looking like Uma Thurman; it got
to the point where it became extremely tedious and distracted from the
story. Despite these niggles, Walters grabbed my attention on page one and
did not let me go until the end of the book.
December 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem
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