"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Acid Row

Title: Acid Row
Author: Minette Walters

Minette Walters is an amazing writer. She has a perfect ear for dialogue, uses ominiscient seamlessly as she moves from one character to the next, and paces her books for maximum effect. Above all, she writes about very human, very flawed characters who discover things about themselves, some good, some not so good.

"Acid Row" is the derogatory name the poverty-level residents have given their "crime-ridden housing project," to quote from the blurb. The book is the anatomy of a riot, starting with building tensions in a poorly planned, claustrophobic estate. Rumors of a pedophile being moved into Acid Row, a community full of helpless children, and a missing ten-year-old girl from a town not far away, feed those tensions and what is supposed to be a peaceful march to oust the suspected pedophile becomes something terrifying as a series of mishaps, misunderstandings, and the maliciousness of some drugged up youths sparks the flame of that tension, and Acid Row boils over. Interspersed with the riot and the characters caught in it is the search for ten-year-old Amy, a storyline that punctuates the theme that all is rarely if ever what it seems.

Among the villains are ordinary people who manage to achieve true heroism, including just-out-of-prison Jimmy James, whose pregnant girlfriend and her mother organized the march and are trapped in the center of it. These people got under my skin, they felt so real. And because its tension is so focused, the story taking place over a couple of days, for me, it held more emotional power than her excellent The Shape of Snakes. This is one author I plan to read again.