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The Shape of Snakes

New or Used: 21 copies from $6.00
'I could never decide whether Mad Annie was murdered because she was mad or because she was black.'It is 1978 in London - the winter of discontent. Strikes are an everyday occurrence and the Ranelaghs' neighbour, Mad Annie, is discovered dying in the gutter, almost obscured by piles of rubbish.The other residents of Graham Road do little to disguise their satisfaction at her death and in this environment of growing racial and class unrest, M. Ranelagh, the narrator, takes up a solitary, and dangerously unpopular, defence against the vilification of Mad Annie. So dangerous that M. and her husband Sam flee the poisonous climate of England.Twenty years later, the return from overseas and M. now begins acting on her secretly and painstakingly collected research to piece together what really happened.But is it justice for Annie's murder she's after or is it revenge for something very different?
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About the Author

Minette Walters has well and truly established herself as one of the most exciting crime fiction writers today. Almost all of her previous novels have now been adapted as television dramas by the BBC, and a dramatisation of her most recent novel, The Breaker, is currently in production. Minette lives in Dorset with her husband and two children.


For 20 years Mrs. Ranelagh has quietly collected evidence about the suspicious death of her neighbor, a black woman known as "Mad Annie," whose body was found in the gutter one evening. London police concluded that Annie was hit by a passing truck. But Ranelagh now armed with letters, statements and testimonials from both official and nonofficial sources is convinced she was beaten to death in a fury of racial hatred. Moreover, she suspects that one of her neighbors, or even her husband, Sam, may have been the killer. From such an intriguingly simple setup springs another searingly narrated psychological drama by Edgar-winner Walters in which manners and other forms of propriety slowly give way to raw, ugly emotion. Ranelagh, the story's narrator, is a middle-aged woman whose restrained public persona masks a bitter, unsparing nature driven by a life of disappointment and futility. She herself was scarred by Annie's death, terrorized in the months following for being a "nigger lover" and publicly doubting the police version. Not only does she want to find out who killed Annie, she wants personal revenge. One by one, she confronts her old neighbors a disparate cast of losers and social climbers now spread across the London area. Ranelagh's search, however, turns into not only a quest for justice but an agonizing odyssey that forces to the surface painful truths about herself and her family. Keeping track of all the players can be a challenge. Yet Walters (The Sculptress; The Ice House) has again created a consuming main character in Ranelagh and a tightly coiled plot that whiplashes with cruel efficiency. (July) Forecast: Walters has been likened to Ruth Rendell and P.D. James, and the comparison is appropriate. Though she doesn't yet have their name recognition, an author tour will help build her profile, as should excellent word of mouth. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

A 20-year-old murder, committed during a climate of intolerance, is at the center of this superb psychological novel. When "Mad Annie" Butts, a black woman afflicted with Tourette's syndrome, dies in the street in front of her London home, police call it an accident. But M. Ranelagh, the young teacher who finds her dying neighbor and tells the story, believes otherwise. And Ranelagh's obsessive quest for justice or, as some believe, revenge leads her to pursue the case for years while living abroad, before personally investigating and confronting her former neighbors. In the process, she uncovers infidelity, prostitution, theft, malicious mischief, rape, and other violent assaults before gaining some measure of truth. In her seventh novel, British author Walters (The Breaker) presents wonderfully complex, three-dimensional characters (including the memorable narrator, who hides her first name even from us) and unravels their stories masterfully, with a final note as illuminating as it is wrenching. Absolutely essential for fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/01.] Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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