cover image The Sculptress

The Sculptress

Minette Walters. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-312-09909-1

Walters, whose first mystery, The Ice House , was well received on this side of the Atlantic, attempts a combination of psychological thriller and mystery here that doesn't quite come off. Roz Leigh, an author embittered by the tragic death of a child and a split from her husband, agrees to write the story of Olive Martin, a grossly fat, untidy woman serving a long prison sentence for the particularly grisly murder of her mother and sister. Visiting Olive in jail, Roz finds herself drawn to the woman, and despite the fact that ``the sculptress'' readily confessed to the crime, she begins to find odd discrepancies in the evidence against her. Roz becomes involved with the former policeman who arrested Olive (and who had his own doubts), and together they unravel the complicated morass of sex and madness that led to the butchery. While there are many intriguing plot turns, Olive's odd personality never quite convinces and subplots about the ex-policeman's restaurant and Olive's crooked lawyer are largely extraneous. For most of the way, despite these caveats and the novel's continuing strain on credulity, this is still a gripping read. (Oct.)