25 Women to Read Before You Die

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006
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The Devil's Feather: A Novel

by Minette Walters

Violence, Violence Everywhere

A review by Anna Godbersen

The action of Minette Walter's stylish and frightening The Devil's Feather shifts from Sierra Leone, to post-Abu Ghraib Iraq, to the English countryside, and so there is room for evil to show itself in many forms. Connie Burns, Walters's heroine, is a Reuters correspondent familiar with the world's hot spots and thus no stranger to evil. "If I'd learnt anything from my forays into the world's conflicts," she says, "it was that sadists exist everywhere and war is their theatre." Still, John Harwood, a mercenary with a nasty reputation, a distinctive tattoo, knowledge of attack dogs, and aliases to spare, is a special case. Stories of brutal rape-murders surface wherever he goes, but of course, they go largely unnoticed amidst the multitude of horrors in the war zones he inhabits. Connie notices, however -- she is cynical, but not so hardened she won't speak up for the weak -- and she voices her suspicions. When Connie is kidnapped and held, blindfolded, for three days, she knows Harwood (or is his name Mackenzie?) is involved. It is only after her release and retreat to a rural English estate that the real mind games begin, and we start to understand the nature of her stalker's sadism, and the substance of her own personality. There are small town dramas and tangled family histories here, too, but The Devil's Feather is at its core a tricky, psychologically acute and thrilling novel about the effects of violence on human character.

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