three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
34-May-June-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-The Chameleons ShadowWhile serving in Iraq, British Lieutenant Charles Acland’s convoy is destroyed by a homemade rebel bomb. Acland, the only survivor of the attack, wakes up in a military hospital severely disfigured and unable to remember his tour of duty or the weeks preceding it. After his release, he heads for London’s streets, now a paranoid, aggressive drifter abandoned by society. He finds refuge and understanding in a rooming house run by a female bodybuilder, Dr. Jackson, and her lover Daisy and starts to take his first small steps back toward humanity. Then a drunken brawl makes him the prime suspect in the South London murders of several gay men.
Knopf. 384 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0307264637

Daily Mirror (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"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 pretty disturbing people. … The Chameleon’s Shadow is another classic which—as is the way with Walters—begins slowly and ends in a panic." Henry Sutton

Independent (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Her unwillingness to use the easy explanations of criminality so common in crime fiction, and her determination to delve deep into Jungian questions, give the book the layers of depth that we expect of the ‘literary’ novel. … The thriller element of the book is a strong narrative of investigation divided between forensic and medical viewpoints, but it hangs on the creation of two compelling people: the bewildered and angry army officer, and the determined, quick-minded Dr. Jackson." Jane Jakeman

NO Times-Picayune 4 of 5 Stars
"The layers of psychopathology and the effects of war—international and domestic—unfold with Walters’ usual insight and empathy." Diana Pinckley

Columbus Dispatch 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The ending is pat and not quite in keeping with the rest of the novel, although it doesn’t take a twist extreme enough to spoil the earlier chapters. Walters seems torn between two impulses: the desire to venture into uncertainty about the psychological makeup of her characters; and the urge, built into the structure of mystery fiction, to pin them down." Margaret Quamme

Sunday Telegraph (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The final revelations stretch credibility, but neatly round off another intelligent, smoothly plotted novel from one of our most interesting crime writers." Susanna Yager

NY Times Book Review 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Unhappily, the story’s sensationalism undermines this character study, while the procedural format, with its routine police work and inept cops, only distracts from the deeper issues this psychological thriller raises." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

Since her debut novel, The Ice House (1992), best-selling author Minette Walters has risen above the standard fare of mysteries and thrillers and produced works rich in character development and psychological suspense. Despite his rage and instability, Charles Acland proves to be a sympathetic, if somewhat shifty, protagonist—no small feat for a writer. Some critics complained of an implausible denouement, and others claimed that the plot became a little unfocused, perhaps because, in the novel’s catalog of social ills, Walters has bitten off slightly more than she can chew. However, Walters’s vivid, convincing characters sustain this powerful and engrossing thriller, which successfully provides a sobering examination of the private and collective damage inflicted by war.

Also by the Author

The Ice House (1992): When an unidentifiable corpse turns up on the grounds of Streech Grange, suspicion falls on the three reclusive women living in the manor house—including one whose abusive husband mysteriously disappeared several years before.