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The Chameleons Shadow [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Minette Walters
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 15 2007

When Lieutenant Charles Acland is flown home from Iraq with serious head injuries, he faces not only permanent disfigurement but also an apparent change to his previously outgoing personality.

Crippled by migraines, and suspicious of his psychiatrist, he begins to display sporadic bouts of aggression, particularly against women, especially his ex-fiancee who seems unable to accept that the relationship is over.

After his injuries prevent his return to the army, he cuts all ties with his former life and moves to London. Alone and unmonitored, he sinks into a private world of guilt and paranoid distrust... until a customer annoys him in a Bermondsey pub...

Out of control and only prevented from killing the man by the intervention of a 250-pound female weightlifter called Jackson, he attracts the attention of police who are investigating three ‘gay’ murders in the Bermondsey area which appear to have been motivated by extreme rage...

Under suspicion, Acland is forced to confront the real issues behind his isolation. How much control does he have over the dark side of his personality? Do his migraines contribute to his rages? Has he always been the duplicitous chameleon that his ex-fiancee claims?

And why – if he hates women – does he look to a woman for help?


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

One look at Lt. Charles Acland's disfigured face and anyone can see that the Iraqi bomb that blew up two of his men has left him profoundly changed—but have his traumatic brain injuries altered the young British army officer's personality enough to make him a murderer? That's the narrative fuse Edgar-winner Walters (The Devil's Feather) lights to ignite this sizzling psychological thriller. She skillfully interweaves strands of Acland's story, including notes from the military psychiatrist treating him, with the hunt for a serial killer who's claimed at least three victims in South London. Then another man is beaten within an inch of his life not long after Acland's move into the neighborhood. When the lieutenant gets into a near-fatal bar fight with a Pakistani stockbroker, Acland's unlikely savior is a 250-pound lesbian weight lifter and doctor named Jackson. Surprisingly, Jackson is also one of the few convincing characters in this plot-propelled tale, a flaw readers may be willing to ignore—until they slam into a contrived denouement well below Walters's usual standard. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Suspense-filled . . . This multi-layered story by England’s best-selling female crime writer blends current events, the politics of sexual relationships and the development of personal identity into a psychologically compelling novel.”
USA Today

“A Walters novel is like no other. She bases her books on facts gathered from real life [and] then embosses with her own painstaking research and fertile imagination . . . The revelations are astounding.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A sizzling psychological thriller.”
Publishers Weekly

“Solid plotting, superb characterization, and fascinating information on traumatic brain injuries make this compelling thriller a sure winner . . . Walters’ latest suspense tale mixes the creepiness of [an] old noir movie with a contemporary, ripped-from-the-headlines exploration of the aftereffects of traumatic brain injury on soldiers.”
Booklist (starred)

Praise from the UK & Canada:

“What marks Minette Walters out from the rest is not just the complex yet utterly convincing psychological profiles she draws of her characters, but the fact that she really gets into the heads of some disturbing people . . . No wonder she is the country’s bestselling female crime writer. But even this label does not do justice to the scope and breadth of her gripping, terrifying novels. The Chameleon’s Shadow is another classic.”
The Mirror

“Minette Walters is one of crime fiction’s finest creators of character. That ability is on full show in this novel of trust and fear . . . All the characters are beautifully built, and Acland is a brilliant creation . . . If you like a character-driven crime novel with great psychological depth, you’ll love The Chameleon’s Shadow.”
Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“An accomplished psychological thriller . . . The Chameleon’s Shadow is as frightening and as compulsively readable as Walters’s previous novels, with as ingenious a plot.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Minette Walters holds a unique place in crime fiction today. That’s because she does so much more than produce tense crime thrillers . . . This is another page-turner and another novel which will deservedly take its place on the bestseller list.”
Sunday Express

“Minette Walters is an adventurous novelist . . . In The Chameleon’s Shadow, [she] leads us to the answer with her usual disturbing ability to look into damaged minds.”
The Times (London)

“A disturbing and fascinating thriller . . . Walters's characters ring true whether she’s dealing with a career-obsessed young army officer, a teenage thief or a dirty old man edging towards senility.”
The Spectator


--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars War and The Disturbed Mind May 19 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Walters, in her latest novel, has ventured into a new subject matter: psychological crime thriller. As usual, she creates a difficult and gruesome set of circumstances from which to spring her story. This time, however, it is a British soldier, Charles Acland, sustaining a terrible head wound while fighting in Iraq that launches this singularly complex journey into a world where he vainly struggles to recover his past. Along the way, he is going to meet people who will both help and hinder his search for why he's the way is: angry, suspicious, paranoid, and aggressive. His guardian angel will turn out to be the most unlikely individual - a husky, butchy female doctor posing as a weightlifter - who seems to possess the canny ability to both appeal to his gruff exterior and his less obvious, underlying gentleness. She and a female psychiatrist, Daisy, befriend Acland with the intent of taking him through the pressing and threatening issues in his life, while, at the same time, shielding him from a society and its criminal justice system that wants to write him of as a social monster and misfit. Don't be surprised to learn at the end that Walters has taken you on a journey full of non-sequitors meant to challenge one's grip on reality. Charles is definitely a chameleon character who has to sort out who he truly is, even if it means learning that he isn't that tough macho figure he always thought he was. What Charles discovers about himself is that he is not quite prepared to take on the truth about his vulnerable and addled life when it confronts him in full force. I like a Minette Walter's thriller because it is usually well orchestrated enough that I, the reader, has no problem following the labyrinth of her thinking.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ending not as good as what came before Feb. 25 2008
By Ted Feit TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Minette Walters’ newest psychological suspense novel focuses on the effects of war, not on those who inhabit the country of warfare, but rather on those who fight the wars, and the horrendous injuries they sustain that affect every aspect of their lives, both physically and psychologically. The protagonist is British lieutenant Charles Acland, 26 years old, home from Iraq with devastating head injuries, including loss of sight in one eye and total disfigurement of that side of his face, tinnitus, and migraine headaches. Even worse are the resultant personality changes: suspicion of those around him almost to the point of paranoia; outbursts of uncontrolled anger [“red mist” is a recurring phrase]; distrust of nearly everyone, especially women; inability to tolerate being touched – whether all this is the result of post-traumatic guilt over the death of two of the men under him in the same attack or what is termed “the prolonged destruction of a personality,” or something else entirely, is unclear. The effects of traumatic brain injury and subsequent antisocial behavior are explored.

When several men in the London area are attacked and beaten to death over a period of several months, and it appears that it is the work of one man, Acland falls under suspicion. It is unclear to the police, and the reader, whether or not he is in fact the attacker. He unwillingly turns for aid to a woman whose lesbian partner runs a bar in which he has started a fight, a doctor called merely “Jackson.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed Jan. 13 2008
Format:Paperback
"The Chameleion's Shadow" was a big disappointment. I love everything Minette Walters has written before this, and so I was eager to read this book. Minette seems to have lost her ability to invent characters with whom the reader can sympathize. Her characters are unique, just not likeable or fleshed out. This book consists of very inventive conversations among the characters, arguing, much like lawyers in court, alternate theories about why and how crimes were committed. The convoluted theories are just boring and tedious and while I wanted to know the ending, I couldn't wait for it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Touching and invasion of personal space appear to be real issues for him." Jan. 10 2008
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As Minette Walter's "The Chameleon's Shadow" opens, twenty-six year old British Lieutenant Charles Acland and his men are patrolling the Baghdad to Basra highway in an armored reconnaissance truck. Suddenly, several roadside improvised explosive devices produce a blast that demolishes their vehicle. Charles, the sole survivor, is horribly disfigured and has lost an eye. When he wakes up in the hospital, he has no memory of the tragedy. A psychiatrist named Dr. Robert Willis comforts the devastated soldier and tries to help him come to terms with the calamity that befell him and his men, as well as with his future as a partially blind and mutilated veteran.

Charles's behavior in the hospital is troubling. He refuses to answer simple questions, swears at his nurses, declines the proffered pain medication, and evinces a visceral and generalized anger especially towards women. Although he makes a remarkable recovery physically, his face is damaged beyond repair and he suffers from severe migraines. He is cold to his parents and seems to suffer from deep-seated feelings of inadequacy and guilt. He claims that he is indifferent to his narcissistic ex-fiancée, Jen Morley, with whom he broke up shortly before he shipped out to Iraq. Charles appears to be incapable of normal social interaction; he lives like a "self-denying ascetic," eating little and exercising compulsively.

Meanwhile, a series of killings in London has the police baffled. Three men, all army veterans, aged fifty-eight, fifty-seven, and seventy-one, were robbed and brutally beaten to death by a frenzied attacker. Detective Superintendent Brian Jones, who heads up the investigation, and his second-in-command, Detective Inspector Nick Beale, believe that the victims knew their assailant. After Charles almost kills someone in a pub fight, he is restrained by a huge woman named Jackson, who is built like a Mack truck, with close-cropped hair, bulging muscles and biker boots. Jackson is a gay and a doctor. Her partner, Daisy, runs the pub that they both own. This formidable woman becomes Charles's unlikely friend in spite of his prickliness and ingratitude, and in many ways, she saves his life. She not only gives him a place to stay, but also uses her own peculiar brand of "tough love" to shape him up and earn his trust. "She's incapable of mollycoddling anyone, tells it how it is, refuses to tiptoe around prissy sensibilities, and gains respect as a result." Later, an elderly pensioner named Walter Tutting is viciously assaulted but survives; since he had argued with Tutting earlier at an ATM machine, the police pick Charles up for questioning.

"The Chameleon's Shadow" is a psychological thriller about the dark impulses that drive people to commit heinous acts. Charles Acland is scarred both psychologically and physically, and he harbors profound antagonism, especially towards women. However, is he capable of killing someone in cold blood? Jackson, for one, has her doubts. Walters introduces some additional key characters, both homeless, as the story progresses: One is a sixteen-year-old runaway named Ben Russell and the other is a middle-aged drunk known as Chalky. These two individuals may know more than they're willing to admit about the serial killer who is targeting middle aged and elderly men. The police, with Jackson's help, do everything they can to get to the bottom of a case that is as bizarre as any that they have ever seen.

Minette Walters is a gifted storyteller and she garners sympathy for the emotionally wounded protagonist. Although the first half of the book is gripping and suspenseful, it falters at the end, when it becomes a bit too weighed down with coincidences and psychobabble. A few far-fetched twists and turns enable the author to wrap up her complicated plot a bit too neatly. In spite of its flaws, "The Chameleon's Shadow" is an engrossing and affecting tale of an injured soldier's horrific journey to hell and back.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acceptable Losses Jan. 10 2008
By Tom S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Minette Walters is England's bestselling female crime writer, and her new novel shows us why. It is a gripping, sometimes shocking mystery that reveals much more than the identity of the killer. As with her earlier titles (THE ICE HOUSE, THE SCULPTRESS, THE SCOLD'S BRIDLE, etc.), Walters makes some important points about the world around us while engrossing us in a terrific story.

Lt. Charles Acland is a young man who has been horribly disfigured in the Iraq War. Back in London, his promising military career at an end, he is one of the lost, the "other" victims of war, attempting to readjust to civilian life in a society that has no use for him. His physical disability is accompanied by psychological trauma, manifested by sudden, violent rages, migraine headaches, and an inexplicable aversion to women. Meanwhile, London is being plagued by a series of brutal murders of gay men. When these two stories intersect, the suspense really begins. Is Lt. Acland a monster? He's considered a suspect by the police, and the doctors who have been working with him are unable to explain his odd behavior. A chance meeting with an unusual woman doctor--an enormous, bodybuilding "butch" lesbian who also happens to be the most sensible character in the story--paves the way for a solution to the mystery.

THE CHAMELEON'S SHADOW also includes valid observations about mental illness, homelessness, unlikely friendships, and the real, lasting horrors of war. Acland's scars make him one of the statistics, the "acceptable losses" of military personnel in conflict. In this exciting story, Walters eloquently proves that there's nothing acceptable about it. Highly recommended.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moving out of the shadows July 11 2008
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Lt Charles Acland suffers horrific injuries as a consequence of the roadside explosion of an improvised explosive device whilst on a tour of duty in Iraq. The explosion kills two of his soldiers, leaves him with head injuries and results in the loss of an eye. Lt Acland is repatriated to Britain where, while he is coming to terms with his physical injuries and trying to ignore the psychological consequences, he is also being forced to confront issues from his past.

What is Lt Acland hiding? Could he be the murderer the British police are searching for? He certainly seems to meet many aspects of the profile being constructed. What is the truth of his relationship with Jen Morley, his former fiancée? Why does Lt Acland find it so difficult to relate to women?

Ms Walters provides an engaging psychological thriller, which I read in one sitting. While I worked out some aspects of the puzzle well before the end, I was so caught up in the `how' and `why' that working out who the perpetrator was really didn't matter. In this novel Ms Walters touches on a number of social issues as well as introducing some interesting characters. Aspects of the story do not work well for me but as a whole the novel works fine if the reader doesn't need (or want to) analyse each component.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "If you look for meaning in random events, you'll probably find it." Jan. 7 2008
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
His vehicle destroyed by an IED, Lt. Charles Ackland barely survives the explosion, the two soldiers with him in Iraq killed immediately. Half of his face irreparably damaged, Ackland lies in his hospital bed in London, his face split between horrible scarred and virtually untouched. Gradually awakening from a coma and his traumatic injury back in England, Ackland's world is changed forever, a young man with an uncertain future. Although he harbors hopes of returning to duty, Charles' recovery will be agonizingly slow, requiring a series of operations that may not significantly alter the damaged side of his face or return sight to a blind eye. There are other disturbing signs as the wounded soldier rejoins the world: impatience, an easily-roused temper and intolerance for the unwanted attentions of women, nurses included.

Working with his appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Willis, Ackland learns his prognosis, but Willis is most concerned with Ackland's barely restrained aggression and frequent rages, which may be the result of traumatic brain injury, a serious concern. When Jennifer Morley, Charles's former fiancé, appears at the hospital, there is a violent confrontation, the injured soldier demanding she be kept away, Morley equally intent on reconnecting to her ex-fiancé. The conflict gives Dr. Willis a great deal of insight into his patient's mental condition, but the reader is equally unsettled by the sudden violence of a young man with such a heavy burden to bear from the Iraq War.

Meanwhile, as is the author's way of introducing relevant information into her thrillers, the local police are dealing with three recent attacks on single men, each bludgeoned to death in his home. Detective Superintendent Brian Jones believes the cases are linked, but so far the police have failed to establish exactly what those links are. By the time Lt. Ackland is released, living in a rented room while enduring useless surgeries, the locals are consumed with the details of these grotesque murders. Unaware of the events around him, Charles forgoes further surgeries to live with the consequences of his damaged face, beset by increasing migraines. One of these migraines brings him face to face with an intimidating female doctor, a weight-lifting, no-nonsense gal referred to as Jackson. Jackson steps in, medicates the troubled soldier and gives him a bed for the night.

After yet another attack, Ackland comes to the superintendent's notice, Jackson serving as a buffer between Charles and the authorities; but Ackland soon puts a stain on the relationship, spending nights in the streets with Chalky, an old reprobate and a teenaged runaway Jackson treats for diabetic complications. Ackland continues to confound the brusque doctor with his aberrant behavior. Despite Jackson's protection, Ackland is clearly a person of interest; but with her usual diabolic plotting, Walters throws in the twists and turns that define her mysteries. And in The Chameleon, Walters introduces a sympathetic protagonist, a potential Jekyll-Hyde figure, the past poisoning the future with unresolved issues, his disfigurement a companion for the rest of his life in a powerful portrait of the ravages of war. Luan Gaines/ 2008.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A damaged vet suspected of murder Feb. 27 2008
By Lynn Harnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
British Lieutenant Charles Acland, facially disfigured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, the two other men in his command killed, finds himself subject to uncontrollable rages as he slowly regains his memory and begins to heal. Impulsive attacks on his mother and ex-fiancée, as well as noticeable hostility towards women in general have earned him the close attention of psychiatrist Robert Willis.

Despite Acland's terse replies and willful resistance, Willis persists, introducing him to a female colleague in London (whose chatter drives Acland nuts). Living ascetically and eating little, Acland keeps to himself in a rented room until he's arrested for an assault on an elderly man.

Though the old man escaped death, the assault is clearly related to three earlier murders of men who were gay or bisexual and ex-military. A little delving and the police find Acland a perfect fit for the crimes. Luckily for Acland they don't have any evidence and he does have a few friends, among them a smart, no-nonsense, butch-lesbian weight lifter doctor, Jackson, who takes him in and puts up with a lot. In less capable hands Jackson would be one of those gruff, heart-of-gold clichés that form the bedrock of lazy, feel-good movies, but Walters can handle her and even make us believe.

Acland, too, grows as the novel develops, exposing vulnerabilities and a strong ethic along with a truly sinister side that makes him just a bit scary and unpredictable. Not Walters' best, but an absorbing read from one of Britain's top crime writers.
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