A Demobbed Psychopath Meets His Match in a Dumb-Bell Twirling Lesbian GP

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The Tuesday Book

THE CHAMELEON'S SHADOW By Minette Walters macmillan, Pounds 17.99 Order for Pounds 16.29 (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897

Minette Walters has never been afraid of tackling contemporary problems in her crime fiction, and this book takes her to the heart of an issue for our times. Lieutenant Charles Acland has returned from Iraq with horrific injuries. Thanks to modern surgery, he survives, though badly disfigured. But are his outward scars reflected in psychological changes that have made him a dangerous psychopath?

Acland displays aggression towards women and attacks his frail fiancee Jen, a slender Uma Thurman lookalike. Discharged from hospital, he seems right in the firing-line as a potential criminal, even though he claims respect as a wounded hero. When three men, possibly gay, are murdered in an area where he has violently attacked a fellow-drinker, his paranoid rages make him a compelling suspect.

Where a lesser crime writer might suffer failures of empathy, Walters' imagination is especially good on the fantasies of hatred and revenge engendered by war. Her unwillingness to use the easy explanations of criminality so common in crime fiction, and her determination to delve deep into Jungian questions, give the book the layers of depth that we expect of the "literary" novel. …