The shape of snakes

by Minette Walters

Paper Book, 2000

Status

Available

Publication

London ; Basingstoke ; Oxford : Macmillan, 2000.

Description

November 1978. Somewhere in West London a black woman dies in a rain-soaked gutter. Her passing would have gone unmourned but for the young woman who finds her and who believes that Annie was murdered.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Romonko
Awesome, but hard to read. Ms. Walters covers all the bases of families in trouble and disfunctional families. We have murder, rape, assault, family violence, robbery and racial hatred. That by no means covers all the things that are uncovered with the death of a mentally handicapped negro woman in 1978 in London. The woman who found Annie Butts is the one whose point of view this book is written from and it shows the terrible price that she paid for pursuing the truth about Annie's story. The woman we know as Mrs. Ranleigh sacrifices everything in her life because of her ardent desire to see justice done for Annie. She spends 20 years, both in and out of the country trying to untangle what happened. It appeared that the police were no longer interested, and weren't even that interested when Annie was found dead. Mrs. Ranleigh suspects police corruption and racism were at play with this death. This book is powerfully and honestly written by an author who is at the top of her game. I have learned to expect the unexpected with Ms. Walters and this book was no different. I absolutely loved this book and it's my favourite so far of all of hers that I've read.… (more)
LibraryThing member verenka
I read this book until 2.30 am one night because I wanted to find out who did it. Like with other Minette WAlters books I was way off until very late and I just couldn't put it down. Unlike other books by the author this one affected me personally, though. I enjoyed everything I've read by her so far as mystery fiction that entertains - a little unusual, scary, creepy and a fairly graphical sometimes.

This book however affected me in a way none of the others did. I don't know if this is because it's written in first person. Or maybe because I can't bear the feeling of helplessness that sometimes overcomes me when confronted with injustice, racism, or sexism. Maybe it's a combination of those.
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LibraryThing member judithann
I liked the alternation of text with letters and emails. I did not like the fact that we never got to know the first name of the main character: what purpose did that serve? Also I thought she was way too obsessed with the accident/murder and if the letter at the end, where Annie writes she wants to be her friend, should explain why she was so obsessed, well, it didn't work for me.

Also I found the plot too "fluid", M. gave us all her different interpretations of what had happened, but then at the end it turned out to be quite different again. This was annoying. I also thought the writing was not too good (this could only be partially due to the translation, if at all).

All in all, I did want to read to the end, but I was not very impressed by the book.

[I read the Nederlandse edition: De vorm van slangen.]
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LibraryThing member hazelle123
It made me cry in some parts - it was actually quite distressing, and the ending was so unexpected. The pictures and letters gave it a realistic twist and Iwas rooting for Mad Annie to the end. The comeuppance of all the baddies is very comforting . A most enjoyable read.
LibraryThing member Scratch
This is a very talky crime novel. A little too much, in my opinion, expository dialogue, and not enough action. (Although it must be admitted that the novel's flashback structure dictates this.)

Warning: Contains some vivid descriptions of extreme cruelty to cats.
LibraryThing member Bookmarque
Walters goes her own way when it comes to constructing psychological thrillers. This one is presented as a woman trying to right a wrong from 20 years ago and all of the frustrations with trying to find the witnesses, evidence and lies. It’s a difficult book to read because it concerns all that is most wicked about the human species. Racism is at its heart, but there’s misogyny, cruelty (to humans and animals), torture, alienation and betrayal. Our narrator, only known as M, tried to get justice for her neighbor Annie when she was killed in the 1980s, but everyone turned on her, even those who should have protected and championed her most. If it was her husband Sam who was determined to get Annie’s death called a murder, he would have been listened to as would any man. Because it was a woman though; she must be crazy, hysterical and delusional. Of course. M doesn’t wallow in it anymore and instead pursues the crime with obsession that can only fuel revenge. The thing is, I don’t know if her revenge was worth it or if she just ended up hurting herself more.… (more)
LibraryThing member janerawoof
Not half as good as the corker I finished recently! Characters are unpleasant, but it was interesting to follow how a woman, still obsessed after 20 years, with the death of a black woman with Tourette's goes about finding the murderer, through sheer doggedness and persistence. Letters, police reports, medical findings add to the authenticity. Ghastly animal cruelty turned my stomach. I may try others by this author since her novel [The Sculptress] was so good. I hope this was just a fluke and her other novels are more enjoyable.… (more)
LibraryThing member catarina1
The first book iIhave read by this author. I thought her style was quite good. But I was appalled by the explicit animal cruelty - it was really not necessary to the plot and purposely stopped reading whenever I sensed some horrible description was going to occur. I don't need to have nightmares from my reading. I'll probably read other books by this author since iIsense that she has exhausted this topic - at least I hope she has.… (more)
LibraryThing member JohnGrant1
A knockout psychological thriller. In November 1978 a spinster black woman with Tourette's syndrome, Mad Annie, was murdered in the shabby West London terrace where she lived and where she was habitually persecuted by the neighbourhood kids and adults alike. Only Margaret Ranelagh, the young local wife who discovered her, seemed interested in doing anything more about the crime than sweeping it under the carpet as swiftly as possible . . . and for her persistence she has paid with social, mental and marital upheavals, having had to spend the past couple of decades abroad. But now she's back, and she wants to extract justice for Mad Annie by, despite the fierce hostility of others involved, raking over the near-dead coals of the case and bringing uncomfortable truths to light. The title refers to that fact that, deliciously, all through the telling of this longish and complex tale, the shape of this history's plot (i.e., what we think was the real story behind Mad Annie's death) is, like that of a snake, constantly changing as we discover more and more about the characters involved, being put in the position of frequently having to reevaluate them as we uncover further details of their nature and past behaviour. This is a beautifully told story, with strong characterization, impeccable pacing, and a powerful narrative drive.… (more)

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