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The Breaker (1999): Smokey Comin’ Atcha

Minette Walters, The Breaker (Putnam, 1999)

[originally posted 7Jul2000]

photo credit: magnumlady.com

Unfortunately, my favorite cover for the book (and the cover on my old copy) can no longer be found online without a “click to look inside!” graphic attached to it. So you get this far more generic UK cover.

I kept looking at the dadaesque, semi-erotic cover of the novel trying to figure out whether to pick it up or not. Finally, I decided to sink the cash and give it a shot.

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

From page one, this is no ordinary mystery. It sounds like one, if you attempt to boil it down to its component parts—a woman’s body washes up on shore in a secluded cove on the south coast of England, with the two main suspects being the person who reported the discovery to the police and the woman’s husband. But Walters mixes more into the book with deftness, weaving subplots in and out of one another so skillfully that even as one gets distracted by them one is forced to just sit back and watch the process. As each seemingly insignificant thing is wrapped into the whole mess at the end, the reader is left all too often wondering why it didn’t register back when it was first mentioned—or if it DID register, why the piece of the jigsaw didn’t fall into place before.

One other thing that sent this into the stratosphere, where mysteries are concerned, is that Walters has so many loose ends by the time you get to the final fifty pages that you know there’s no way she’s going to be able to follow formula and spend the last part of the book concentrating on the crime that started it all. And she doesn’t. And it’s brilliant.

Best mystery I’ve read since Parker released All Our Yesterdays six years ago. ****

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

One response »

  1. Pingback: The Sculptress (1993): Clay Lies Still | Popcorn for Breakfast

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