The Shape of Snakes by Minette Walters

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The Edgar Award-winning, bestselling author hailed by The Washington Post Book World as "a master of the macabre who imbues her novels with an intensely eerie atmosphere" weaves an astonishing tale of mystery, intrigue, and revenge.

In just seven years, Minette Walters has burst from the ranks of mystery writers to become a bestselling author the world over and today's preeminent practitioner of psychological suspense. With constant comparisons to P. D. James and Ruth Rendell and a growing American audience, Walters is poised for breakout success with The Shape of Snakes, her finest, and most finely wrought, novel yet.

November 1978. The winter of discontent. Britain is on strike. The dead lie unburied, garbage piles in the streets-and somewhere in West London a black woman dies in a rain-filled gutter. Known as "Mad Annie," she was despised by her neighbors.

Her passing would have gone unmourned and unnoticed but for the young woman who finds her and who believes-apparently against reason-that Annie was murdered.

But whatever the truth about Annie-whether she was as mad as her neighbors claimed, whether she lived in squalor as the police said, whether she cruelly mistreated the cats found starving in her house-something passed between her and Mrs. Ranelagh in the moment of death that binds this one woman to her cause for the next twenty years.

But why is Mrs. Ranelagh so convinced it was murder, when, by her own account, Annie died without speaking? Why does the subject make her husband so angry that he refuses to talk about what happened that night? And why would any woman spend twenty painstaking years uncovering the truth-unless her reasons are personal?

About Minette Walters

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British mystery writer Minette Walters began her literary career as a sub-editor at a romance publishing company. She wrote short stories and romance novels for a time before turning to writing mysteries. Her first mystery novel, The Ice House (1992), won the John Creasy Award for Best First Novel. Later novels have also been award winners. Scold's Bridle won a CWA Gold Dagger and The Sculptress (which was made into a BBC television play) won an Edgar Award.
Published January 1, 2000 by MacMillan. 400 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Science & Math, Gay & Lesbian, Business & Economics, History, Political & Social Sciences, Nature & Wildlife, Crime. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Back in 1978 the Ranelaghs' marriage, none too strong to begin with, nearly foundered over the death of one of their neighbors in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames. Mrs. Ranelagh, encountering Ann Butts outside in their street moments before she died of massive head injuries, was convinc...

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Shape of Snakes

Publishers Weekly

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For 20 years Mrs. Ranelagh has quietly collected evidence about the suspicious death of her neighbor, a black woman known as "Mad Annie," whose body was found in the gutter one evening. Lon

Jun 18 2001 | Read Full Review of The Shape of Snakes


While the Ranelagh family eventually leaves England, Mrs. Ranelagh does not leave her obsession behind.The Shape of Snakes, a powerful tale of justice and redemption, is actually two stories: Annie's and Mrs. Ranelagh's.

Sep 22 2014 | Read Full Review of The Shape of Snakes

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