Ann James Freelander
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. At the core of the story are the related issues of racism, ignorance and intolerance, and Walters succeeds in evoking her readers' emotions and making us think; yet she manages to do so (at least in my opinion) without making us thoroughly depressed in the process. Don't misunderstand me. This novel is somewhat disturbing, not to mention unsettling, and many of the despicable attitudes and actions (toward both humans and cats) can only be described, quite frankly, as evil. Nevertheless, there is still that ever-so-important redeeming element of good that occasionally manages to punctuate the darkness--even if it is only a feeling of remorse or a simple act of kindness.
In conclusion, if you enjoy intelligent, realistic, thought-provoking mysteries--if you enjoy the Prime Suspect television series for example--you'll enjoy this novel. It's certainly one of the best mysteries I've read. Highly recommended!
is the cracking first line to Minette Walter's most recent novel. Read more