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The Shape of Snakes [Mass Market Paperback]

Minette Walters
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
I could never decide whether "Mad Annie" was murdered because she was mad or because she was black. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A First-Rate Mystery! Feb. 9 2002
By Tiggah
I've enjoyed the dramatizations of British mystery writer Minette Walters' previous novels, and I was, therefore, looking forward to finally reading one; I must say, I was not disappointed. The Shape of Snakes is a well-written and, frankly, unputdownable novel. The story captures the reader's attention and interest right from the start. As it progresses, the characters take shape and the mystery becomes increasingly complex with a good many twists and surprises before the final pieces are in place.
The story takes place in the first person. Briefly, and without giving anything away, the narrator (known to us only as M. Ranelagh) had in 1978 discovered the body of her neighbour Annie (a disabled black woman) as Annie lay dying in the gutter in front of M's house. Not satisfied with the coroner's verdict, we find that M has spent the last 20 or so years amassing evidence in support of her belief as to what really happened to Annie.
Though the story is told through the less-than-objective eyes of one of the characters, Walters has counterbalanced this obvious bias in a highly effective (and indeed original) manner by including "copies" of letters, newspaper clippings, e-mails, reports, and so on in between most of the chapters.
Lest anyone be offended or upset, I ought to mention that there are, unfortunately, fairly graphic descriptions of cruelty to cats which some may find quite distressing (I certainly did and frankly skipped over much of the description). If you are able to withstand the cruelty, however, this is definitely a novel worth reading, for it is an extremely satisfying and masterfully-written mystery.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Play it again Sam..... Jan. 24 2002
I have read all Minette Walthers' mysteries and like some of her books better than others. From my perspective, THE SHAPE OF SNAKES is one of her better books, although not nearly as original or thrilling as THE ICE HOUSE or THE SCULPTRESS.
Although some of her readers did not like THE BREAKER, I though it was quite good and liked it better than THE SHAPE OF SNAKES. BREAKER was very original and I learned a great deal about the tides and coastline of Southern England from her research--a plus for an Anglophile like me. SNAKES like BREAKER left me sad, but in one someone dies owing to a huge misunderstanding, while in the other someone dies owing to cruelty and prejudice. I don't know which is worse.
Readers of Walter's books will recognize many familar elements in the SHAPE OF SNAKES including her addiction to overly long exchanges of dialogue among and between too many characters. The end result is a somewhat confused denouement (she may have been thinking the screen adaptation but it does not play well in print). Walters uses the same device she used in THE ICE HOUSE and THE SCULPTRESS -- an historical approach which relies on a determined protagonist who is trying to understand and piece together events that occurred many years before which are tied to someone's death. The protagonist's meddling inevitably leads to the uncovering of many old skeltons in many old closets and the threat of personal bodily harm.
In SNAKES, the protagonist, known only by the letter "M" (for "mad"??) is married to an apparently long-suffering fellow named Sam who has given her various versions of what he was doing on the night a near neighbor was found dead in the street by "M".
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"I could never decide where Mad Annie was murdered because she was mad or because she was black."
is the cracking first line to Minette Walter's most recent novel. even the author herself admits she is proud of this first line, and i can see why. it says quite a lot about the story. especially if you look at it again once you have completed the book.
This book is most certainly a very disturbing book to read. It contains graphic scenes of cruelty to animals, wife beating, drug use, dominant familial relationships, etc.. For this reason many people have criticized this book. they say it is too hard to read, and chills you to the bone. indeed it does.
but that is the neauty of Minette Walters. whereas other lesser authors might shya way from writing about such motivational topics, she confronts it head on. With style. she isnt afraid to tackle the issues which make our world the unpleasant place it often is (for example; Child abuse, rape, poverty, racism, sexism, fascism (demonstrated to some extene in The Ice house)). It really impresses me.
Admittedly this book is quite different from her normal stuff, much darker, less centring on the psychology of the crime, and more on the aspects and effects of the crime. The narrator, Mrs Ranelagh, the woman who found Annie dying in a gutter in 1978, has made it her quest to discover the truth about the death, even though the police are adamant she was simply knocked down by a car. we never find out her first name. that is significant. it adds even more mystery to her quest.
she is simply referred to as "M". she is not a likeable character by any means, definitely flawed, very determined, and you do at time wonder whether she is in fact stable.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars The Shape of Snakes
If there was a poster book for a need to warn away people from torture of animals and children, this is it. Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2002 by Ann Freelander
1.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing
As much as I have liked all her other books, I had to put this one down without finishing. The animal abuse made my blood run cold. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Not in the least bit interesting!
I was very disappointed in this book. The characters were so one-dimensional that I couldn't really tell them apart. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2001 by Susan C. McConnell
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't be able to put this one down.....
...and if you are, you're most likely looking for a light, trite read so just be gone with your lazy self.
I'm unable to decide if this is my favorite by this author. Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2001 by "fastgal"
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I loved this book!!!! - I could not put it down. I found the story that unfolded in letter form very clever and entertaining - the suspense held me and I cannot rate this read... Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2001 by Joanne Gouws
4.0 out of 5 stars Ms. Walters Has Written Another Winner
The plot is absorbing, the characterizations are beautifully drawn, and the format is varied and interesting. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2001 by Holly Cossin
5.0 out of 5 stars Snake Shapes
(...). This is a remarkably clever examination of "snakes": Men who abuse their children, men who rape, women who damage their children through abuse and terror, women who abuse... Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2001 by L. Rogers
4.0 out of 5 stars A New Favorite Author
Though I'm a lover of psychological mysteries, I confess my previous acquaintance with Minette Walters' novels was through the dramatizations of "The Ice House" and... Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2001 by JACK
5.0 out of 5 stars Local Mom Charged with Neglect - Blames Mystery Novel
I picked up "The Shape of Snakes" at the library yesterday afternoon. I thought I would sit down and read a few chapters before I started dinner. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2001 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Minette Walters is one of my favourite authors, and this is one of her best books. She describes the dark side of humans in a very chilling and direct way. I couldn't put it down.
Published on Sept. 26 2001
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