Wednesday, December 05, 2007



Minette Walters is one of Britain’s best-selling crime/thriller writers, and I have enjoyed several of her books. They all fall into the psychological thriller genre, and The Chameleon’s Shadow is her most recent book, having been published in October this year, so it is not yet available in paperback.

It was rather coincidental that I picked this up at the library, just after having ranted in my last blog post about injured servicemen being abused at a local leisure centre. The main character in the book is a young army officer who has just been serving in Iraq. Lieutenant Charles Acland has survived a bomb on the road between Baghdad and Basra, the two soldiers under his command who were with him were not so fortunate; however Acland has been horribly injured, and therein lies the plot. From the moment he comes to consciousness in a British Military hospital it seems as if what has happened to him has changed his personality dramatically, and his behaviour becomes increasingly violent, anti-social and unpredictable particularly towards women.

Meanwhile, in London there have been a series of brutal murders. Several men have been violently battered to death, and the police are baffled. When Acland is eventually released from hospital, and is discharged from the army on the grounds of his disabilities, he gravitates to London where he eventually comes to the notice of the police and is linked with the latest in this series of killings following a violent altercation with a man in a pub. Could he have committed the murders ? can he control the rage boiling up inside him? I don’t want to give any spoilers here, suffice to say that the plot becomes increasingly complex and twisted, and the reader is never quite sure where it will go next.

What I found particularly interesting about this book was the first part when Acland is still in the hospital and having many sessions with the resident psychiatrist. Walters really makes the reader think about what can happen to young men (and women) who go to war, and how, if a career in the army (or any other of the forces) has been your life plan it is totally devastating when, in addition to disfiguring and handicapping injuries, that is taken away from you. Reading this I could see how it happens that many of the homeless people on the streets of Britain are ex-military.

Rated: 3.5*


Bear with me whilst I have a little rant about rape. Rape is a nasty word, a nasty word for a nasty deed. I can remember, as a girl, hearing it referred to as “a fate worse than death”, and maybe for some women that seems to be true. In real life, death is the only final fate, and therefore there can never be a fate that is ‘worse’ than death. But I digress….

The reason I want to rant about rape is because the government, in the person of the Solicitor General, Vera Baird, announced a week ago that they were not satisfied with the rate of convictions for rape in the UK and therefore they planned to implement certain measures to increase the conviction rate.

When first I read this proposal I thought ‘fine, ok, that seems sensible’; but then I started thinking about what was really being said.

In this country a person is innocent of a charge brought against him/her until they are PROVED guilty beyond doubt. So in the case of rape and the conviction rates, is the Government saying that they KNOW that all persons accused of this heinous crime are actually guilty but are not being convicted by the courts? Because that is the implication of their recent statements –which goes against everything that the law in this country has stood for – namely, presumption of innocence.

Of course I realise that to prove a case of rape is never easy. Usually it is the word of one person against another with no witnesses. So it is likely that there are cases where rapists manage to get themselves acquitted, and that is horrible. Horrible for the person who was raped, and potentially horrible for others who may then suffer the same fate if the rapist strikes again.

Never-the-less, we change the law at our peril.

The Government is concerned about the number of reported rapes which fail to lead to a conviction. This means that a low number of allegations of rape made to and recorded by the police actually end up with the rapist being found guilty in a court of law. This is not because the courts are any softer on alleged rapists than they ever were, but because many of the reported rapes never make it to court at all. Of those that do, the conviction rate is nothing like as low.

I suspect that these proposed changes are due to three things: (1) Emotion – rape is a very emotive issue; (2) Government obsession with ‘targets’ in all aspects of national life, and 3. a huge widening of the definition of rape in Britain.

It is true that most women who are raped (and it is usually women) are raped by someone they know, a friend, a family member, a work colleague, a neighbour. Or a woman may well be raped by her own husband.
But I have grave concerns about the new view that someone who goes out and gets themselves totally legless, so that they cannot recall whether or not they consented to sexual intercourse, should be able to then cry ‘rape’. They must carry some responsibility for what occurred, even if in retrospect they are shocked, appalled, ashamed or concerned.


My DD is the muffin maker in our family, and has a huge repertoire of delicious muffin recipes; but from time to time I do venture into her territory, and last week when I had to take a contribution to a morning get-together I decided to try something new so made a batch of these. All I can say is that they vanished off the plate so fast I had hardly sipped my cappuccino before they were gone!


Makes 12

350g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground mixed spice (or cinnamon)
240g golden caster sugar
3 dessert apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
3 large eggs, beaten
120ml vegetable oil
100ml milk
150g SOFT toffees, chopped into small pieces - it is essential to use soft toffees as hard ones take forever to chop up.

1 Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases. Sift the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the dry ingredients.

2 Add the chopped apples,toffee pieces, eggs, oil and milk in the middle of the well, and fold the mixture together with a large metal spoon, using as few strokes as possible. Don’t worry if the mixture is lumpy, the trick behind the lightest muffins is not to overwork the batter.

3 Fill the paper cases with the mixture, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until the muffins are well risen and golden.


nick said...

Hi! Thanks for peeking at my blog. Your own blog is wonderful - the 3Rs mixture is inspired. And the rants are all very shrewd. I wrote about rape and the legal changes myself a little while ago. It seems to me the crucial issue is the evidence itself and whether there's clear-cut proof the victim was resisting. Tinkering with what sort of evidence is allowable etc seems a bit irrelevant. But certainly the miniscule number of rape convictions is a scandal and only encourages the rapists.

Medbh said...

What's even scarier is how few rapes are even reported in the first place, as well as how many convictions there are versus 30 years ago. We are awash in a culture where raping women is normative.
Love your format, it's like a full meal for the brain.

Charlotte said...

How I love the idea of toffee apple muffins! Yum. Any chance of your daughter starting a muffin blog? I'd be an avid reader.

I have been a fan of Minette Walters, but have slowed down recently because her writing is SO disturbing. Perhaps it's worth giving her another go.