Minette Walters. Putnam Adult, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14251-2
Sinuous plotting and an ability to bring a large cast of characters quickly to life put Walters's (The Dark Room, 1996) fifth suspense novel in the same ballpark as the work of Ruth Rendell. After describing the discovery in London of the body of a homeless man who called himself Billy Blake, Walters presents two extracts from a book about missing persons-the first of many such inserts from books, articles, letters and faxes that move the story along. Was Billy Blake really James Streeter, a merchant banker who disappeared in 1988 with 10 million? Digging into that question is twitchy, talented magazine journalist Michael Deacon, who is attracted to the coolly enigmatic Amanda Poole, the woman in whose garage the dead body was found-in part because she used to be Mrs. James Streeter. Walters makes Deacon her main focus, depicting a man troubled by family failures but compassionate enough to take in such needy strays as a 14-year-old street hustler who knew Blake and a sexually repressed co-worker who eventually helps bring everything into focus. Walters's prose isn't quite as shapely as Rendell's, but she's a superior storyteller who plumbs psychological depths with an acuity that here, as before, will have readers enthralled. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection; author tour. (Mar.) FYI: Of Walters's five novels, one has won an Edgar Award, one a John Creasey Award and one a Gold Dagger Award.
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997