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

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Disordered Minds

Title: Disordered Minds
Author: Minette Walters

I've been putting off writing this because I think I used up my superlatives on the last book of hers I reviewed here. But, here goes.

A rape and subsequent disappearance of the 13-year-old victim, assumed to be a runaway, starts off this book, which then picks up 30 years later. Jonathan Hughes has written a book called Disordered Minds that focused on injustice in the British legal system and young men convicted of crimes for which they were later exonerated. One who wasn't, but likely would have been if DNA tested had been in place, was Howard Stamp, who confessed to killing his grandmother, retracted his confession, was convicted, and committed suicide in prison. When George Gardener, a middle-aged woman with a strong sense of justice, reads Hughes book (a chapter from his "book" appears appears as the first chapter here; it's an extension of a technique Walters uses in her books to lend a sense of reality, with faked photos, police reports, etc.), she seeks him out to help her prove Howard's innocence, having become obsessed with the case after moving into his old neighborhood and hearing the stories. But more is at stake than solving an old murder; Jonathan has demons of his own to slay, starting with the prejudices he faces as a minority in England post-9/11.

As in her other books I've read, Walters proves herself a storyteller of great skill, building suspense, keeping things moving, and creating memorable characters. As before, she uses omniscient narration to great effect, revealing what needs to be revealed when she feels the need to reveal it.Things aren't always as they seem, and delving into the case brings out other secrets. The characters are fleshed out, 3-dimensional creations who stayed with me after I closed the book on the last page.

My only quibble with the book is that it's the new slightly larger format mass market pb Berkley Books is trying. Slightly taller, better quality paper, bigger print, it's very readable. It's also heavier, harder to hold on both the treadmill and when I was just sitting in my recliner, and often, it would pop out of my hand when my grip slipped. If I wasn't so enthralled by her writing, I would have considered passing on this. But Walters has me hooked, and I'm powerless to resist.