“The Sculptress” by Minette Walters

The SculptressMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you read a lot of books, it can sometimes be difficult to recall which books you’ve read and which you haven’t. At least that’s the case in the time before social networking sites for books. (How did we ever survive?!?)

That’s what happened with “The Sculptress.” I’d thought I’d read it before based on the novel’s description and the opening chapters felt vaguely familiar. But for some odd reason I couldn’t recall the twists, turns and the solution to the mystery at the center of the book. (This is fairly unusual for a mystery novel and one of the caliber of Minette Walters’ works.)

Years before, Olive Martin confessed to the horrific crime of killing her mother and sister and then trying to dissect them in time to hide the evidence from her father. She wasn’t able to get the job of dissecting them done in time, called the police and confessed to the crime. Martin won’t pursue a plea of insanity and now sits in prison. Morbidly obese, Martin has a violent temper and mood swings and has earned the nickname “The Sculptress” for the figurines she carves out of whatever she can find.

Enter into the story, Roz Leigh, a former best-selling author in need of a book to keep her publishing career alive. She’s assigned the true-crime story of Olive in an attempt to salvage her career and publishing contract. At first, Roz is skeptical she can find a story to tell when it comes to Olive, but upon meeting her and talking to her, Roz begins to think Olive is innocent and may be covering up for someone else.

Roz also has some issues of her own–she’s suffering from depression.

The story delves into both mysteries over the course of the novel. We see some parallels between Olive and Roz–both are fleeing from a past they don’t want to accept because of pain associated with it. But neither are really living either, just marking time in the world. Both are in a prison–it’s just Olive’s that is a physical one.

Walters keeps the clues to what’s occurred flowing at a good rate. She doesn’t give away the entire game in the first few chapters, but she does plant the seeds. Readers will realize there’s something more to Roz than within the first few chapters and Walters shows and doesn’t tell what’s occurred to audience. It makes for a fascinating story and an intriguing mystery.

As does what really happened that fateful day in Olive’s kitchen.

One of the early works by Walters, “The Sculptress” shows the mystery writer on the top of her game. One of her best stories.

I’m still not sure why I don’t remember reading it the first time…

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