From the first page, Minette Walters assaults your sensibilities with her psychological thriller Acid Row
; she grabs you hard and fast, sustains the onslaught throughout and hits you with a knock-out final blow. Straightaway she informs you that the abduction of 10-year-old Amy and the revelation that a paedophile has been relocated to Acid Row, "a place of deprivation where literacy was poor, drugs endemic and fights commonplace", and where children were left to run wild, leads to rioting and "five hours of savagery leaves three dead".
Even with this prior knowledge, Walters' skill as a novelist never leaves you complacent and nothing prepares you for the horror and tragedy of her novel's shocking denouement. Monsters and heroes are found in the most unlikely places, subverting all your preconceptions: third-time pregnant teenager Melanie incites the protest only to block the rioters when they turn violent; "Big, black" Jimmy James is just out of prison but risks his neck to save the life of an injured policewoman; and the 71-year-old asthmatic father of the so-called paedophile turns out to be more sadistic than your worst imaginings.
A page-turning novel doesn't have to be particularly well written or intelligent to hold you in its grip but occasionally one comes along with both qualities and leaves you reeling in its wake. This is it. Acid Row's numerous narratives are so tightly packed and interconnected that no detail is spurious and everything is channelled towards suspense and shattering revelations. Walters just goes from strength to strength. --Nicola Perry
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From Publishers Weekly
Ever since she won an Edgar back in 1993, Walters has continually worked outside the standard boundaries of crime drama. Psychological suspense may be the best tagline for her novels, but it still doesn't quite catch her tenor. Her heroes, for example, are anything but moody, disagreeable. Her dialogue wanders and stews and then jabs like a bayonet. Her plots often evolve out of sequence. She simply won't walk the line and she's confoundingly good at taking liberties. Here, Walters transports readers to Acid Row, a dungeon of a housing project in a London suburb populated by single mothers, fatherless children, criminals fresh from prison, gangs and the helpless elderly. It's a community, however, bonded in its destitution, suspicious and unwelcoming of outsiders. When word leaks out that the government has placed a pedophile in No. 23, the beleaguered residents begin to simmer. Then, when a 10-year-old girl goes missing, Acid Row explodes into open revolt. With frightening clarity, Walters breaks down the daylong riot into recurring vignettes. There's the anguish of Sophie Morrison, a young doctor taken hostage by the pedophile and his vicious father; swaggering ex-con Jimmy James, who rises to the occasion with bursts of reluctant heroism; the cowering police and their pathetic attempts at restoring order; and the evasive parents of Amy Biddulph, the little girl nobody can find. Walters (The Shape of Snakes; Edgar-winning The Sculptress) pulls it all off with rhythmic brilliance, the narrative flowing smoothly. Again, she demonstrates her eye for the sociological and psychological avalanche provoked by human temptation and people living in cramped quarters. With her eighth novel, Walters continues to navigate literary pathways few have ventured down before her.
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