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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best!
Other reviews here have summarized the plot...suffice it to say the plot is simple, and the characters are complex. That's what makes this novel so compelling: it's populated by real people, albeit not always very nice ones, and these people are making their way in a world which is not friendly to them. There's a layer of philosophy here too: organized religion,...
Published on Dec 13 2003 by Judith Lindenau

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars enough surprises
The plot of this Edgar Award winning novel by one of Britain's hottest mystery writers is awfully familiar, but in Minette Walters capable hands it's still creepy, interesting and very readable. Rosalind Leigh is commissioned to write a book about Olive Martin, an obese young woman, known as The Sculptress after hacking up her mother and sister with an ax and rearranging...
Published on Oct. 13 2000 by Orrin C. Judd


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best!, Dec 13 2003
By 
Other reviews here have summarized the plot...suffice it to say the plot is simple, and the characters are complex. That's what makes this novel so compelling: it's populated by real people, albeit not always very nice ones, and these people are making their way in a world which is not friendly to them. There's a layer of philosophy here too: organized religion, mysticism, and the occult all come into play as the story unfolds. It's a satisfyingly deep and well-written book, and I recommend it highly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars TRUE BEAUTY COMES WRAPPED IN DIFFERENT PACKAGES..., June 28 2002
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This is an intriguing, well written mystery which garnered the 1994 Edgar Award for best novel of the year for British writer, Minette Walters, who has written quite a number of excellent books. She is a writer in the tradition of that other great British novelist, Ruth Rendell, known also as Barbara Vine. The comparison by those who are familiar with the works of both Ms. Walters and Ms. Rendell is inescapable.
This book revolves around two main stories that become by necessity intertwined. One is that of a morbidly obese, young woman, Olive Martin, who is imprisoned for the brutal and grisly murders of her mother, Gwen, and beautiful, younger sister, Amber, whose butchered bodies shocked even the most jaded of folks. On the eve of trial, Olive made a full confession to the crime and received a prison sentence of not less than twenty-five years for her butchery. Known in prison as "The Sculptress", she passes the time making miniature, carved, wax images, a delicate and sensitive pastime for one with a reputation for such primal savagery.
Enter Rosalind "Roz" Leigh, a thirties something author suffering from writer's block, who accepts a commission to write about the Olive Martin case. After meeting Olive, she becomes intrigued by her, finding her to be other than what she had expected, and a symbiotic relationship develops between the two. As she delves into the facts of the murder case, and as her interviews with Olive reveal, all is not quite what it seems. The more that Roz sorts through the facts and the more people that she interviews who were in some way associated with the Martin family, the more she becomes convinced that a miscarriage of justice has occurred and that the wrong person is paying a horrific price for the grisly murders of Gwen and Amber.
Someone, however, does not wish her to dig too deeply. With the aid of a former police sergeant, Hal Hawksley, an attractive, though conflicted, young man who is now her new love interest and was also the officer who arrested Olive for the murders, Roz stays the course and perserveres in her inquiry. What she discovers is a complex morass of human indifference, greed, and passion that makes for a compelling and well crafted mystery.
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3.0 out of 5 stars enough surprises, Oct. 13 2000
By 
Orrin C. Judd "brothersjudddotcom" (Hanover, NH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The plot of this Edgar Award winning novel by one of Britain's hottest mystery writers is awfully familiar, but in Minette Walters capable hands it's still creepy, interesting and very readable. Rosalind Leigh is commissioned to write a book about Olive Martin, an obese young woman, known as The Sculptress after hacking up her mother and sister with an ax and rearranging the pieces. Now all she carves is little wax figurines in her prison cell, including one of Rosalind after their first interview. At this and subsequent interviews, Olive convinces Rosalind that she did not actually commit the crime, this in spite of her own confession and a mountain of evidence. Of course, as Rosalind starts to dig into the facts of the case, she finds herself in mounting danger.
It all sounds painfully standard I know, but it made for a very good BBC adaptation which was shown here on PBS and the book is terrific too. As always in these things, Olive is the most interesting character in the book, but her relationship with Rosalind is especially well done and there are enough surprises to offset the somewhat formulaic basic plot.
GRADE: C+
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1.0 out of 5 stars I don't get it, Aug. 8 2000
By 
A. Kelly "kelly4059" (Minneapolis, MN United States) - See all my reviews
As I read all the glowing praise for Walters and her finely crafted mysteries, I have to say, I don't get it. I think she's a terrible writer. I read The Scold's Bridle when it first came out and didn't agree with the praise it had earned. But when casting about the other day for a modern mystery, I thought I'd give Walters another try with The Sculptress. It was even worse than The Scold's Bridle. The plot twists are so transparently engineered, and you could drive a truck through some of the holes. At the end, when the tension should be building, the exposition becomes confusing and story oddly boring. Throughout, her main characters are shallow, yet instantly dislikable, and their behavior is just bizarre (and I'm talking about the non-criminals). Even when she's trying to show tough tenderness between characters, it comes off more like really bad romance novel relationship, mixing violence and sexual interest in a very unpleasant way. To top it off, the dialogue is stilted and, quite often, completely uninteresting. I see very little intelligence, inventiveness, or skill here; Walters can't hold a candle to Ruth Rendell.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE SCULPTRESS -- A PERFECT TITLE FOR THIS BOOK, June 18 2000
By 
TheReader23 (Pennsylvania (orig. NY)) - See all my reviews
This is an intriguing story about Olive Martin, who is in prison for murdering and cutting up the bodies of her mother Gwen and her sister Amber. Enter Roz, an author who is not really interested in writing any longer. Her publisher gives her an ultimatum and an assignment to write a book about Olive and the murders. She reluctantly agrees and once she sinks her teeth into this task, she is no longer convinced that Olive really committed the murders that she has confessed to. Walters' portrayal of Olive as an obese, unkempt woman adds to the story as she allows the reader to want to believe that Olive is in fact the murderer, while at the same time, the story that Roz is unraveling could perhaps tell us otherwise.
This book won the 1994 Edgar Award for best mystery novel and it is no surprise why. The real surprise is how deft Minette Walters is at making this gruesome story come alive. It is filled with darkness, tension and sensitivity to the protagonist. Can Minette Walters write a bad book -- I don't think so. She's obviously a master of her craft.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A superb achievement, Aug. 19 1999
By A Customer
Minette Walters' The Sculptress, which deservedly won the 1994 Edgar Award for best mystery novel, is that rare book that deftly interweaves many different elements into one convenient package without sacrificing any of its remarkable qualities or losing sight of its identity. It's a book as multi-faceted as it is satisfying, and as an English mystery it packs a surprisingly savage bite.
Rosalind Leigh is a likeable young journalist with a tragic past and an uncertain destiny who is sent to interview Olive Martin, a monstrously obese woman sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for the grisly murders and mutilation of her mother and younger sister. The tension and chemistry between Roz and Olive is somewhat reminiscent of that between Starling and Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. It soon becomes clear, however, that Walters is taking a different and more ambitious direction than Harris. As Roz researches Olive's dark past, she uncovers numerous inconsistencies that escaped the attention of the police, her defense attorney, and even her tight-lipped solicitor. That and a genuine liking for the mysterious "Sculptress" are enough to persuade her that Olive is innocent, and is concealing more than she lets on. From there Walters, demonstrating masterful control of pace and plotting, slowly and with infinite cunning unravels a web of subtle intricacy. The details of the crime are meticulously worked out; each new plot complexity fits seamlessly into place with each subtle nuance of character in a way that reminds one of Ruth Rendell, one of the few writers who actually rivals Walters.
The characters are wonderfully engaging. Rosalind is the perfect protagonist for the contradictory reason that she is far from perfect; she is a fully rounded character whose flaws contribute as much to the story as her considerable assets. Hal Hawksley, the burly and attractive young ex-policeman who arrested Olive after the murders, is no less complex, and he makes an ideal love interest for Roz. Both people are troubled souls with considerable spunk, and their blossoming romance, mercifully unclichéd, brings a welcome humor and passion to what would otherwise be a bleak psychological thriller. Most fascinating of all is Olive Martin, a woman of incredible sensitivity and wisdom trapped in a fat and unappealing body. Side characters, like Roz's tactless friend Iris Fielding and the liberal and compassionate Sister Bridget add delightfully to the depth of the story.
The Sculptress succeeds as both a compulsively readable entertainment and as a richly rewarding mainstream novel, but like all masterworks it is far more than the sum of its parts. It's a novel worth reading for the sheer enjoyment of the prose alone. Sometimes you'll come across a line of dialogue so scathingly witty you'll find yourself laughing out loud; sometimes you'll read a passage so profound and beautifully written you have to reread it. This book made me want to thank God and Minette Walters that there are still some authors who can really write. You'll be grateful, too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best recent mystery novels, June 1 1998
By A Customer
I've been an avid reader of mystery novels for nearly 40 years, and thought I'd seen everything. But this book jolted me -- and not because of the violence (I've read much worse). Not only is it a gripping, well-plotted story with well-drawn characters and a generally satisfying ending, but also the author grapples with larger issues -- the complexities of family relationships and marital problems; the slippery slope of semi-legal business deals; and beauty, or lack of it, and how it affects our view of people (the obese Olive turns out to be a far more admirable person than her beautiful sister Amber). The 'good' characters aren't angelic, the bad guys are mostly weak folks trying to cover their behinds rather than deep-dyed villains, and both the writer and her ex-policeman lover are 'difficult,' conflicted people -- just like real life. The book isn't an easy read -- you do have to pay attention, and I think some readers' discontent with the ending arises because they expect the author to hand them everything on the platter. But stick with it (read it twice, if necessary) and you'll appreciate just how well done it is.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent and extraordinary Walters work!, June 22 1998
By A Customer
Again, Minette Walters transcends her genre! This is no ordinary murder mystery. To the delight of any murder mystery reader, details emerge unexpectedly and continuously change the probabilities. But, beyond the shifting views of the truth, the human dramas unfold in an equally complex way. Love, and hate, stories unfold along with the main plot in a sweet and sour mix. Is Olive Martin an abused and confused child hiding in this hideous fat adult body? And, if so, is she essentially pitiable, or horrifyingly evil? And what is the tragedy in the past of this writer which has brought her to this state of sympathy with such an ostensible monster?
The book is so gracefully written, and its characters so beautifully and believably drawn that you almost have to pity other authors of the psychological murder mystery; they haven't a chance. Walters is head and shoulders beyond the best.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing story, March 18 2004
By 
Karen Potts (Lake Jackson, Texas) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As this book begins, author Rosalind Leigh's world is falling apart. Torn up by a failed marriage, she develops writer's block and is unable to pursue her career. To jolt her out of the doldrums, her publisher decides to assign her the task of writing a book about Olive Martin, an obese woman who has confessed to the brutal slayings of her mother and her sister. Rosalind is reluctant at first, but after meeting Olive, she develops a fondness for her and begins to suspect that she is incapable of committing the crimes she has confessed to. Roz connects with Hal, the policeman who investigated the case, and they form a romantic partnership as well as an investigative one. This is a well-written book which keeps the suspense going, although the pace is a little slow at times.
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3.0 out of 5 stars the sculptress, July 15 2001
By 
Annette Sonnenberg (BOWLING GREEN, OHIO) - See all my reviews
I couldn't wait to get this book ! I had read so many good reviews. The first 200 pages were so good that I could not read fast enough. Then it kind of went off the tract talking about the writers boyfriend's trouble, adding a whole lot of unnecessary characters. As though there weren't enough characters already. But where it really lost it for me was the ending.The person who actually committed the murders had no motive against the people who were killed and in no way would have the physical stength to kill these people in the manner in which they were killed. It's one thing to not have it be the first person who you suspect. You need some kind of suspense. But when the murderer is ridiculous that wrecks a book for me no matter how well it is written.
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