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The Shape of Snakes

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  3,386 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
A psychological thriller about race, family, and the brutal power of raw emotion.Mrs. Ranelagh has never stopped thinking about the dead body she found in the gutter twenty years ago, during Britain’s Winter of Discontent. “Mad Annie,” as she was known, was the only black resident of her West London neighborhood and openly despised by the community. The police called her d ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 19th 2008 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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Asghar Abbas
Jul 11, 2016 Asghar Abbas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Tackled racism and mental illness, quite aptly I might add.

Oddly enough, her endings are always happy ones, on a positive note. In that, her books reminds me of Pedro Almodóvar; grim stories, rainbow endings.
Emma Hontzeas
Jan 19, 2017 Emma Hontzeas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'I could never decide whether "Mad Annie" was murdered because she was mad or because she was black'

This is my first Minette Walters novel and i must say i was impressed, not only is the story well written but the use of coroners/police reports, news articles and letters added a little something with the mystery and the secrets hidden in this story. Set in the the late 70's then the late 90's, a twenty year gap between the what happened then and what was happening now. This novel tackles rac
Jan 03, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Another terrific page-turner from my new favorite crime-story author. A black woman, Annie, dies under suspicious circumstances in the working class London neighborhood where she lived. The ensuing investigation resulted in the death being ruled accidental and the woman who found the dying woman labeled hysterical because of her insistence that foul play had been involved. Twenty years later, she returns to find justice for Annie, and a certain measure of revenge on the people who turned their b ...more
Deborah Pickstone
Absolutely excellent. Minette Walters' plotting is outstanding. At the time this came out it was a response to the murder of Stephen Lawrence in the UK, for which justice was finally achieved, insomuch as that is possible - the lasting legacy being the change in the double jeopardy law 3 years after this was published that allowed his killers to be re-prosecuted - finally.

Walters addresses the issues of being different - the victim is not only black but also has Tourette's Syndrome. The police r
The Cats Mother
This is the 3rd of her books that I've read, and the one I've liked the least. The characters are all unpleasant, the story quite slow, and the constant hints that you can't quite trust the narrator are a bit annoying. Annie, an black woman with Tourette's syndrome who lives alone and is shunned by her racist neighbours, is found dying in the street where she lives in South London during the Winter of Discontent. M finds her and is sure she's been murdered, but no one believe her and the police ...more
May 06, 2009 bin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book, really captivating. Recommended to anyone who loves a mystery.
Come to think of it...I don't even like mysteries that much, and I still loved it!
About a woman who has never accepted the death of a black woman who lived in her street. Searching for answers, she uncovers more than just who murdered the poor woman. And although she never spoke to the dead woman, she grows closer to her by trying to find her killer.

Now something for you to think about- What is the main characte
Gary Lawrence
I did not find this a page turner, i found it a hard slog. It's about hatred, racism vengeance and people who can never forgive, forget or move on. I finished the book but it is quite forgettable.
Oct 02, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This psychological murder mystery is, in my opinion, one of Walters’ best. And I have read lots of her work.

The plot is about a woman determined to solve what she believes to be the murder of a neighbour and friend.

The book starts with ‘I could never decide whether ‘Mad Annie’ was murdered because she was mad or because she was black.’ And while her killing may be resolved, this question remains a source of vexation throughout.

In the telling of a really good story, this book raises issues of ra
Jan 10, 2014 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to read this years ago and abandoned it because at the time I didn't appreciate the format of the narrative, which is in equal proportions straight forward prose and 'documents' (police statements, doctor's notes, affidavits etc). Basically, I was sulking about Walters' departure from her winning formula of bog standard yet beautifully crafted crime story telling. I picked it up again during this Christmas break and this time I not only finished it but came to appreciate it. It still did ...more
Sep 17, 2011 Devorah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Minette Walters' use of various memos, news clippings, and letters in addition to the experience of a primary character to augment our understanding of this crime is amazingly engaging and effective. I found this book devistating in its indictment of British racism and in the petty quarrels of an uneasy street of neighbors. Unexpected cruelty, rationalization, and deception make for a reading experience that will stay with you long after you close the book.
Jul 26, 2011 Hanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have loved reading every single one of Minette Walter's novels, but I have to say that The Shape of Snakes is one of the best I have read so far.

The ending is particularly poignant.
Dec 25, 2010 June rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The teacher who tells the story is a strong intelligent woman. Some surprising twists.
Oct 17, 2013 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fifth book by Minette Walters that I have read, although not in the order that she wrote them. And, it is probably the last one of hers I'll read--at least for a while. This book wore me out. First, none of the characters, including the protagonist (first person pov, was likable at all. Second, it was so jam full of deceit and manipulation and resentment and desire for revenge that it left a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, murder isn't pleasant and I don't expect the story of "solv ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Viktoriya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, re-read, 2014
Hmm...Apparently, I read this book already, back in 2009 (Thank you, goodreads for keeping track :). Anyway, I have NO RECOLLECTION of ever seeing this book before, let alone reading it. In my defence, 2009 was a very tragic year for me and most of it is a blur.

So, I decided to give this book a second read (is it a second read if I don't remember the first?) Well, my rating didn't change. It's still a 2 stars. It was on the way to being 4 stars at first, then it was down to 3 and by the time I
Jun 09, 2016 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An engaging and thought provoking novel, with more than one story being told. This starts with the murder of Ann Butts, known, as Mad Annie, a murder that wasn't investigated for a variety of reasons. But for the persistence of a Mrs Ranelagh (the narrator of the story) that would have been the end of that.

However, we follow her investigations, and 20 years on she is still looking to find out how it was that the death of Ann Butts was never investigated. The story unfolds, the problem neighbours
May 26, 2016 Leni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always find this writer both gripping and difficult. Difficult because I am not someone who can handle graphic violence (it gives me nightmares), gripping because she writes in such a wonderful psychologically true style-I know, I am a therapist by vocation.
So I had to get this book to read even though I had no idea what I might be getting into. This book was very different in many ways from her previous ones. It was about racism in a very upfront manner and also our heroine narrates in true t
Deon Stonehouse
The Shape of Snakes by Minette Walters has twists and turns to keep the pages turning. This is a dark disturbing mystery with a complex challenging plot. Mad Annie suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, her neighbors lack sympathy, they find her verbal outbursts and ticks annoying. Annie’s neighbors don’t like the color of her skin either. Mrs. Ranelagh finds the poor woman in the gutter, moments from death. She refuses to believe Mad Annie met with an unfortunate accident, when she starts objecting ...more
Apr 20, 2008 Cindi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Laura, Caterry, Beth
Another "smart" mystery from Minette Walters, who does not write series mysteries. Each of her books is a stand alone novel. I read the first two thirds very quickly, but slowed down toward the end because I ended vacation and went back to work. I wish I had been able to read t all in a few sittings because when I was only reading a few pages each night, I started missing some of the interconnections. Some interesting themes in this one: racism, family relationships, animal cruelty, revenge, jus ...more
Mar 04, 2013 Pippa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-thrillers
I felt this was a bit too clever for its own good. I didn't much like the smug narrator, and I nearly gave up many times because it was boring or annoying me. Still, I did finish it, though I'm beginning to realise there are not many crime novels I like. I feel that, often, the evil of the world at large is exaggerated, and all the characters are petty and spiteful. I know this is a very personal reaction though, and many people would rate it higher.
May 02, 2016 Tripp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really it's 4.5, but I am feeling nice! I think Gillian Flynn is a fan of Walters. Both have complex female characters that display the full range of human behavior, motivations and actions that are typically reserved for male characters.

That was great, but what makes the book work is the odd structure. It flows a bit like revenge story, a bit like a Poirot novel and a bit like unreliable narrator tale. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Katie Q
Jan 01, 2011 Katie Q rated it really liked it
You cannot ever fault a Minette Walters book. This superb story will keep you reading to the last.

What makes this book so special is that it is not your standard crime novel with the police seen as always the good guys. It is obsessive until the end and you will really wonder where it is leading you. Love crime read this one.
I thought this was a great story, full of innuendo and unresolved characters who are more real than the usual lot of portraits in a mystery novel.
Walters has a wonderful ability to scare the pants off you, with nothing more than a few words. Loved it.
Nov 18, 2013 Kyra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, suspenseful, blah blah blah. BUT - and this is really a huge but - these characters are so implausible. Are the British really that..clinically devious? AND that fiendishly clever? Well, maybe so, but I don't really buy it. So only a 3.
Jan 27, 2009 Tess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was interesting and kept me questioning everyone. I never ONCE suspected the actual murderer, I'm afraid Mariah will be ashamed of me for that one...I was shocked! I almost cried at the end, it was very bittersweet.
Aug 04, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great story - the author does a great jog developing her characters and their relationships. I would tell anyone who likes a good story to read this book!
Some parts of this were quite disturbing. But over all this is a truly amazing and wonderful book like all Minette Walters.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
racism and murder, tourette's
May 13, 2009 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, read-in-09
So damn good!
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 [book:The Sculptress|41325 was so good. I hope this was just a fluke a ...more
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Shake of snakes 1 8 Jan 27, 2014 05:09PM  
  • Exile (Garnethill, #2)
  • Anna's Book
  • The Distant Echo (Inspector Karen Pirie, #1)
  • Cold is the Grave (Inspector Banks, #11)
  • Road Rage (Inspector Wexford, #17)
  • Beneath the Skin
  • Good Morning, Midnight (Dalziel & Pascoe, #21)
  • A Likeness In Stone
Minette Walters (born 26 September 1949) is a British mystery writer. After studying at Trevelyan College, University of Durham, she began writing in 1987 with The Ice House, which was published in 1992. She followed this with The Sculptress (1993), which received the 1994 Edgar Award for Best Novel. She has been published in 35 countries and won many awards.

The Sculptress has been adapted for tel
More about Minette Walters...

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