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The Chameleon's Shadow    by Minette Walters order for
Chameleon's Shadow
by Minette Walters
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

In bestselling author Minette Walters' riveting new mystery, The Chameleon's Shadow, Lieutenant Charles Ackland (of Britain's Light Dragoon Guards - Royal Armoured Corps) has been severely wounded while on duty with coalition forces in Iraq.

Now, horribly scarred - physically and psychologically - Ackland has reluctantly returned home to London, England. Isolating himself by turning his back upon his parents and his former fiancée Jennifer Morley, a lonely and bitter Ackland must now try to rebuild the shattered pieces of his former life as a civilian.

Meanwhile, just prior to his discharge from medical treatment, Ackland's doctors, anxious to understand the increasingly difficult and alarmingly volatile Ackland, consult his former fiancée. When asked to describe Ackland, Morland says, 'Charlie's a chameleon. He projects different images of himself to different people. With his {military} regiment, he's a man's man. With me, he's a woman's man. With his parents, he clams up and pretends he's not there.'

But, of course, the question of which is the real Charles Ackland is only part of the wounded veteran's (and everyone else's) problems now that he is back in London. Weary of conventional medical treatment available from the British government, Ackland - lonely and at odds with nearly everyone he meets - finds companionship and support in some rather unorthodox places.

Soon, however, the rudderless and explosive Ackland soon finds himself enmeshed in a police investigation into the brutal murders of several men in separate incidents. And as police intensify their pressure on Ackland, their understanding of his shadowy chameleon personality - ironically identified by his former fiancée - becomes the key to solving the mysterious murders.

Suspenseful and provocative, The Chameleon's Shadow is an absolute winner. Particularly impressive in her sensitivity to the psychological complexities of her characters, award-winning author Minette Walters has crafted a spellbinding tale in which duplicity, trust, and estrangement compete thematically with social marginalization, sexual passions, and unspeakable horrors. Don't miss it!

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth:

The Chameleon's Shadow is a gripping psychological thriller from prize-winning author Minette Walters. It's another in a long line of novels – each with its own unique plot and arresting characters. Walters places herself into her characters' heads in such a way that the reader is entranced while at the same time repelled by their actions.

In The Chameleon's Shadow, a wounded Iraqi war veteran, lieutenant Charles Acland, returns to London with a terribly disfigured face. He is plagued by his ex-fiancée, believing that she only wants to reunite with him for his disability pay. As a string of three men are found beaten to death, he is suspected of a rage he couldn't control, that caused him to attack them.

As the plot unfolds, his psychological profile labels him as a dangerous man. However, a lesbian doctor befriends him and delves into his past to discover what makes him tick. She proves to be more than a casual acquaintance, and tries to make him realize he is damaged beyond his disfigurement - a domineering mother and conciliatory father haven't helped his growth.

Walters uses dialogue a great deal to move her story along, which helps to know the players on a more personal level. She uses action and sudden movements to endorse the storyline - a very effective skill. She is a winner of the Gold Dagger and Edgar Allen Poe awards. Justly so.

Acland proves to be a character who engenders sympathy, though the reader is not sure he is deserving of it. The Chameleon's Shadow is a very good argument for why wars should not be waged. Here is a man already not sure of his place in the world who is placed in jeopardy by unseen enemies and sorely wounded, never to be the same again. How can he survive at home carrying the burdens of war on his injured body?

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