Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Chameleon's Shadow-Minette Walters

The Chameleon's Shadow
Minette Walters
Knopf, Jan 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307264633

On 24 Nov 2006 the convoy drives the highway that links Basra and Baghdad led by a Scimitar Reconnaissance Vehicle when roadside bombs explode. The destruction of the RV became a top DVD seller in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. However, the commander of the RV, British Army Lieutenant Charles Acland survived the blasts with facial and brain injuries; everyone else inside died. Two days later the Light Dragoon Guards’ officer is flown unconscious to Birmingham, England to begin reconstructive surgery of his disfigured face.

Back home, Charles is filled with rage especially towards women, and rejects the facial surgery, but initially accepts the psychological treatment offered by Dr. Robert Willis. Charles is incredibly angry at his former fiancée Jen Morley who insists even before his war trauma he was a chameleon. To her he was a woman’s man; to his unit and his male friends he was a man’s man; to his mom he was the adoring son. Charles abruptly moves to London at about the same time a serial killer is murdering people. He remains reclusive and angry yet accepting. His rage at Muslims leads to a brawl in a bar with Pakistani-English and a rescue by a three hundred pound female lesbian weight lifter Dr. Jackson and the bar’s owner Daisy, who try to help him afterward.

This is an interesting look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in which the medical profession is unsure of whether Charles’ injuries changed his personality especially since Jen convinces them he hid his killer instincts behind a nice guy chameleon. Charles seems genuine and his two female saviors also, but it is the plot focused on whether he is a serial killer or not that grips readers. Although a late spin that answers the question of is he seems off kilter, fans of Minette Walters will enjoy this psychological thriller.

Harriet Klausner