The first-person narrative of The Shape of Snakes is broken up by documents, letters, and statements of various kinds, which provide our only alternative source of information when we start to wonder just how much the narrator's account is concealing. We never learn her first name — she is just M. — and she remains surprisingly distant: she is focused on maintaining control of events and not at all self-reflective, so we have to learn about her though her relationships with others, with her parents and husband as well as the residents of Graham Road. The Shape of Snakes is also a fascinating depiction of a community and change within that community. Walters paints a bleak portrait of 1978 London suburbia, of race and class conflict and police corruption, as well as of changes over the following twenty years, of changing attitudes and the gentrification of suburbs.
The Shape of Snakes is I think my favourite of Minette Walters' novels — and certainly one of the most original and compelling works of crime fiction I have read for some time.
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