The Chameleon's Shadow (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.