Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
A 20-year-old murder, committed during a climate of intolerance, is at the center of this superb psychological novel. When "Mad Annie" Butts, a black woman afflicted with Tourette's syndrome, dies in the street in front of her London home, police call it an accident. But M. Ranelagh, the young teacher who finds her dying neighbor and tells the story, believes otherwise. And Ranelagh's obsessive quest for justice or, as some believe, revenge leads her to pursue the case for years while living abroad, before personally investigating and confronting her former neighbors. In the process, she uncovers infidelity, prostitution, theft, malicious mischief, rape, and other violent assaults before gaining some measure of truth. In her seventh novel, British author Walters (The Breaker) presents wonderfully complex, three-dimensional characters (including the memorable narrator, who hides her first name even from us) and unravels their stories masterfully, with a final note as illuminating as it is wrenching. Absolutely essential for fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/01.] Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
For 20 years Mrs. Ranelagh has quietly collected evidence about the suspicious death of her neighbor, a black woman known as "Mad Annie," whose body was found in the gutter one evening. London police concluded that Annie was hit by a passing truck. But Ranelagh now armed with letters, statements and testimonials from both official and nonofficial sources is convinced she was beaten to death in a fury of racial hatred. Moreover, she suspects that one of her neighbors, or even her husband, Sam, may have been the killer. From such an intriguingly simple setup springs another searingly narrated psychological drama by Edgar-winner Walters in which manners and other forms of propriety slowly give way to raw, ugly emotion. Ranelagh, the story's narrator, is a middle-aged woman whose restrained public persona masks a bitter, unsparing nature driven by a life of disappointment and futility. She herself was scarred by Annie's death, terrorized in the months following for being a "nigger lover" and publicly doubting the police version. Not only does she want to find out who killed Annie, she wants personal revenge. One by one, she confronts her old neighbors a disparate cast of losers and social climbers now spread across the London area. Ranelagh's search, however, turns into not only a quest for justice but an agonizing odyssey that forces to the surface painful truths about herself and her family. Keeping track of all the players can be a challenge. Yet Walters (The Sculptress; The Ice House) has again created a consuming main character in Ranelagh and a tightly coiled plot that whiplashes with cruel efficiency. (July) Forecast: Walters has been likened to Ruth Rendell and P.D. James, and the comparison is appropriate. Though she doesn't yet have their name recognition, an author tour will help build her profile, as should excellent word of mouth. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This is a bold psychological thriller that practically revels in unpleasant, unsettling themes, and yet it is almost impossible to put down. It is 1978, and "Mad Annie" Butts, the victim of merciless harassment by her neighbors because of her skin color and because she suffers from Tourette's syndrome, lies dying in a gutter in the rain. She is found by the local schoolteacher, M. Ranelagh, and Annie gives her such a look of sorrow and despair that M. spends the next 20 years obsessed with her death. The police rule it an accident, but M. is convinced it was murder. She has amassed a rucksack full of evidence, including photos, e-mails, correspondence, and police and psychological reports, many of which are included in the text, and she is intent on having the investigation reopened; indeed, at times her quest for justice begins to looks a lot like revenge as everyone, from the police investigator to her own husband, is forced to confront the longstanding deceptions surrounding Annie's death. Walters succeeds where many a literary novelist has failed by grounding her complex rumination on the nature of contemporary society within the structure of a gripping crime novel. --Joanne Wilkinson
Kirkus Book Review
Back in 1978 the Ranelaghs' marriage, none too strong to begin with, nearly foundered over the death of one of their neighbors in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames. Mrs. Ranelagh, encountering Ann Butts outside in their street moments before she died of massive head injuries, was convinced by a spark that passed between them that Mad Annie, despite the taunts directed against her for her race and the tics, especially involuntarily abusive language, caused by Tourette's syndrome, was worth fighting for-and that despite all the evidence that she had drunkenly stumbled into the path of a passing truck, she was murdered. After Mrs. Ranelagh's complaints to the police about everything from Mad Annie's death to a mysterious scratching in the Ranelagh home to a sexual assault outside were dismissed as delusional nuisances, she went abroad with her husband Sam. Now she's had 20 years to gather evidence against the neighbors who, for whatever individual reasons, beat Mad Annie to death, stole her possessions, ignored or assaulted her as she lay dying, and covered it all up. And now that Mrs. Ranelagh is finally back in England, Walters (The Breaker, 1999, etc.) unleashes a withering attack on the former tenants of Graham Road-an attack whose blistering power is only intensified by its patient revelation of layer upon layer of deception by every last party to the outrage. Agatha Christie with the gloves off: a slow-motion train wreck of a novel that not only confirms Walters's kinship with P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, but displays a ferocity far beyond any of their recent work.