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The Shape of Snakes
ISBN 051513306X / 9780515133066 / 0-515-13306-X
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In 1978, a single black woman known locally as "Mad Annie" lies dying in the roadside. When a verdict of accidental death is recorded, residents of Graham Road, where she lived, breathe a collective sigh of relief. As far as they were concerned Annie Butts was a repellent alcoholic with a foul mouth. It is only Mrs Ranelagh, a young teacher who refuses to accept the court's decision. Something convinced her that Annie was murdered and 20 years later she returns from overseas with enough evidence to reopen the case.
Although the story is narrated by Mrs Ranelagh, the inclusion of much of the documentary evidence she has amassed including photographs, letters and e-mails, gives the reader the freedom to interpret characters and events for themselves. Motivation remains an endless source of fascination for Walters and the presence of several of Mrs Ranelagh's psychiatric reports, ensures that the reasons behind her commitment to the case also remain ambiguous.
Shape of Snakes is a masterful piece of writing that probes deeply into the mind of an isolated, bruised woman, showing remarkable psychological insight. Using her unrivalled talent for characterisation, Walters examines the ease with which we accept the public persona as an accurate representation of the true nature of an individual. In peeling back the layers of this public face, Walters has created a dark and uncomfortable novel--a compelling read that reinforces her position as one of this country's most skilful crime writers. --Sarah Crawford [via]