Walters, Minette - 'The Chameleon's Shadow'
THE CHAMELEON'S SHADOW may not be quite as good as Walters' earlier books like THE SCULPTRESS or THE SCOLD'S BRIDLE but it's certainly a gripping read and will go onto my list of favourites of the year.
THE CHAMELEON'S SHADOW revolves around Lieutenant Charles Acland who has been sent home from Iraq after his convoy was bombed. His two colleagues were killed and he has lost an eye and is disfigured. It soon becomes clear to the hospital staff that he has a problem with women and being touched. He certainly has anger problems with his ex-girlfriend, Uma Thurman look-alike, Jen. His psychiatrist is unable to get Charles to talk about any of his issues.
Charles recovers well enough to leave hospital but is unable to go back to his position in the army. Receiving a pay-off, Charles has sufficient money to live on and moves to London. His dislike of being touched almost makes him kill a young Muslim man in a pub who has asked him to move over. Fortunately the pub owner's partner, Jackson, is able to break the argument up and from then on she takes Charles under her massive wing. Jackson is both a doctor and a body builder and becomes the only person Charles trusts.
Interspersed through the story of Charles's hospitalisation are newspaper reports of the deaths of several gay men in London who have been beaten to death. When Charles moves to London his life becomes entwined with the investigation and the police begin to suspect him of the murders. Either that or there's an unusual amount of coincidences.
THE CHAMELEON'S SHADOW is an engrossing read and Walters is a master story-teller. Charles's life was complicated even before the accident and the details are slowly revealed which then shed a different light on Charles's present-day actions. Initially he's a prickly character but he wins the reader's sympathy by the end. One of Walters' strengths is to make her characters real people, if a little unusual.
Later in the book the story is also told from the perspective of the detectives trying to solve the multiple murders. Contrary to first expectation, the police are portrayed as decent blokes not trying to stitch Charles up but giving him the benefit of the doubt as befits his 'hero' status. Naturally the identity of the perpetrator of the murders is obscured until the very end.
I haven't read all of Minette Walters' work by a long shot but I haven't been disappointed by any that I've read so far.
Karen Meek, England