Minette Walters






Allen& Unwin, November 2005
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Minette Walters is not an author who finds a ‘hit formula’ and sticks to it by churning out book after book where the only difference is the title. The only thing that Walter's novels have in common is that a crime is committed.

THE DEVIL'S FEATHER opens in war torn Sierra Leone with the savage murder of five women. The crime is written off as the action of three young rebel soldiers, but war correspondent Connie Burns is not convinced. Her suspicions lie at the door of a mysterious, violent white man, a mercenary called John Harwood. She shares her suspicions with an English copper – but there is no proof. A few years later she meets up with Harwood again in Iraq - now he has a different name , a different job, and coincidently similar murders occur. When Connie warns his employers about Harwood, he scares her off. On her way to the airport she is kidnapped, but is released after three days. Publicly it would appear she is unharmed but she flees back to Britain and goes into hiding. She tells investigators virtually nothing about her experience, as they are inclined to disbelieve her. Secretly she continues to work with the friendly English copper, with whom she has kept in touch, to bring Harwood to justice, knowing that he will come looking for her.

Tension builds up and is then released only to build up again, all the way through to the end of the book. You gradually learn what Connie has gone through – or do you? You can’t help but feel that in a deliberate move, you are not told the entire truth – that is left up to readers to decide for themselves. Minette Walters uses two fragile personalities: Connie and her new friend, Jess, two women who have lots of emotional baggage, with the epitome of evil looking for one of them, and then works it to an edge-of-the-seat resolution – or is it resolved? You will have to read THE DEVIL'S FEATHER to understand what I mean by this. There is an interesting side plot, which takes the heat off the tension – and there is a lot of tension. Sometimes the breaks in the action does irritate. I just wanted it to get over with! You know something is going to happen, but you don’t know what or when, and when it does happen, well, suffice to say the ending is not what you would expect. I love Walters’s technique of interspersing the story with e-mails, news stories and police reports, giving depth and background to the story and breaking the tension for a while. The baddie, who has a couple of names in the book, is very plausible – in today’s world you can see men like this existing, and getting away with crimes. He is very realistically portrayed. I love the way that Minette Walters gets into the minds of her characters – you can feel their torment in her descriptions.

Nov 2005 Review originally published on Murder and Mayhem
Revised Jan 2006


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