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The Shape of Snakes

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  2,972 ratings  ·  131 reviews
This "New York Times" Notable Book begins on a rainy winter night. It takes hours for a black woman known as "Mad Annie" to die in the gutter. It will take 20 years for the woman who found her to shape her neighbors' racism, the indifference of the police, and her own rage into the truth.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 4th 2002 by Jove (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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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
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
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
Oct 02, 2009 Kim rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
This book was thoroughly enjoyable, but there were a few things I wanted to mention in a review.

I didn't expect the narrative breaks with the non-narrator letters and reports, etc. At first I found them jarring, but once I knew they were coming, I liked the device and found it effective. The Hong Kong doctor's letters, in particular. Great insight into the main character.

I also found a number of dialogue scenes to be simply unbelievable. Do people really talk that deeply and insightfully to ea
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.
Walters never ceases to amaze me. Unlike most writers, who follow certain patterns, characters through out their career, each of Walters' book could have been written by a different person as they are all so different. Different yes, but still the same brilliance.

One thing that is similar is Walters' use of emails, letters and memos etc as plot devices, which add a depth of realism to the plot. In 'The Shape of Snakes' the are used as devices to delve in to the past, rather than the narrative us
Katie Q
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.
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.
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.
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.
Carol Taylor
I started out by really liking this book. It seemed so relevant for what's happening today in the U.S. even though it takes place in London in the 70's. It's about racism, bullying, domestic violence, corrupt police, etc. The narrator takes you back from 1999 into the 70's to try to unravel what happened when a neighbor died. Was it an accident as the police said or was it an intentional homicide. However, by the time all the details come to light (the narrator has been obsessed with this case f ...more
Eu gostei do livro, achei bem escrito e interessante. Uma professora encontra uma vizinha negra, tida como louca, morrendo em frente a sua casa. Isso em 1978, em uma inglaterra descrita como racista. Os outros moradores da rua, todos brancos, nao estavam confortaveis por tet uma negra louca morando em casa propria.

Eh um livro de misterio. A moca negra morre, e a policia diz que ela estava andando bebada e foi atropelada em um dia de chuva. Mas a professora, que eh quem narra o livro, acredita de
Feb 07, 2014 Tura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: crime
I read two of hers in a row, this one and The Scold's Bridle: A Novel, and a sort of pattern already emerges - but they are unputdownable. Shape of Snakes is more like a crime novel of something that might have happened, though the actual plot is convolute. There are the families-from-hell terrorising the neighbourhood and nicking stuff rather than some suave heiress types, for example. The atmosphere is creepy, she writes effectively; I have read books with much higher bodycount and more gore, ...more
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!
I like to think I don't view the world around me with naivety or idealized warmth but the characters in this book seem to me to be... just questionable. Everyone appears repellent or unkind in some manner or another and I came away feeling very strongly that any goodness in Walters' world is merely built upon false pleasantries and ulterior motives. Don't get me wrong, I get it, this happens and people can be horrible, but you can't build a world or a (worth-while) story out of this one idea/per ...more
Some parts of this were quite disturbing. But over all this is a truly amazing and wonderful book like all Minette Walters.
The teacher who tells the story is a strong intelligent woman. Some surprising twists.
racism and murder, tourette's
A cleverly weaved story that pulls no punches in illustrating racism, mental illness and domestic violence in suburban UK in the 1970's. The actual setting is twenty years on, as "M" untangles the web of lies surrounding the death of a black woman in her neighbourhood in 1978.

"M"s character was something of an enigma and at times I was at odds with her actions. The main contention being that for 20 years she sat calmly on a proverbial hornet's nest and also remained married to and raised a fami
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 ...more
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Shake of snakes 1 6 Jan 27, 2014 05:09PM  
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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...
The Sculptress The Scold's Bridle The Ice House The Dark Room Acid Row

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