Minette Walters is known for her deeply disturbing psychological mysteries and The Chameleon's Shadow is Walters at her best. Her books are generally uncomfortable reads that force readers to delve deep into the human mind and the darker parts of society. In this, her thirteenth novel, Walters uses the war in Iraq as the launching point for her tale.
Charles Acland was seriously injured in Iraq. While recuperating in the hospital back home in England, he is a puzzle to the staff. The nurses are afraid of him-one even filed a complaint against him. His doctors are amazed at his progress-and how well he hides it. His psychiatrist is troubled by his mental state and begins to question how much of his state of mind is due to the war or if instead, he's dealing with a “prolonged destruction of a personality.” Long before his doctors feel he's ready, Charles decides to fore go any further treatment and to apply for a return to active duty. When is request is denied, he rents a small apartment and becomes, for the most part, a recluse.
Meanwhile, the police are investigating a series of murders of gay men.
Walters lets the story unfold slowly for the reader by doling out parts of the story from several sources. We're with Acland in the hospital and get his story from his point of view and then through the notes the various staff members have written. When Charles leaves the hospital, we follow him through his voice as well as the notes back and forth between doctors. We get the police investigation from news clippings and from the written reports of the police. But Walters leaves some doors open for us to guess too. Early in the book we meet Charlie's his parents. What part do they play in his current problems? What about his relationship with Jen Morley, his former fiancée? What is the truth about Charlie's past? Was he really the extrovert that everyone loved or was he, even years, before beginning to unravel?
What makes Walters' such compelling reads is that she not only writes a dark mystery, she forces the reader to look at some of the more unpleasant parts of society. The author allows the reader to jump to conclusions based on society's prejudices and then twists things around to leave us stunned.
REVIEWED BY CARYN ST. CLAIR
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