A brutal crime with three suspects, The Breaker is the mystery thriller from crime queen Minette Walters.
When she revisited, always with astonishment, what had happened to her, it was the deliberate breaking of her fingers that remained indelibly printed on her memory . . .
Twelve hours after a woman’s broken body is washed up on a deserted shore, her traumatized three-year-old daughter is discovered twenty miles away wandering the streets of Poole.
But why was Kate killed and her daughter, a witness, allowed to live? And why weren’t they together? More curiously, why had Kate willingly boarded a boat when she had a terror of drowning at sea?
Police suspicion centres on both a young actor, whose sailing boat is moored just yards from where the toddler is found, and the murdered woman’s husband. Was he really in Liverpool the night she died? And why does their daughter scream in terror every time he tries to pick her up?
Walters's novels (The Echo, 1997, etc.) depict complex, fallible people caught in intricate plots whose course and solution defy guesswork. Here, a woman's body washes up on the Dorset coast; then a toddler is found wandering alone in the nearby town of Poole. Initially, the investigation identifies two suspects, later a third, with both the police and the reader unable to establish definite means and opportunity, although all three suspects have motives. The dead woman, Kate Sumner--who had been raped and strangled, her fingers broken before she drowned--was chameleonlike: a greedy, malicious social climber, but an attentive wife and loving mother. Her husband may be a browbeaten yet adoring spouse, but his child fears him and his alibi is questionable. One suspect, Steven Harding, is a self-absorbed, sex-obsessed actor and a compulsive liar, but there's little evidence of his rumored affair with Kate. His friend Tony Bridges is a respected high school chemistry teacher with a heavy dope habit and a yen for his female students. The local constable, Nick Ingram, whose lack of ambition hides a probing mind and sharp insights into the human psyche, is immersed in the perplexing case. His investigation reacquaints him with stableyard owner Maggie Jenner, whose marriage to a confidence man shattered her family and its fortune, for which she unreasonably holds Nick responsible; Maggie and Nick's slow, witty courtship is one of the great pleasures of the novel. Each time the police develop a strong case against one suspect, the evidence shifts, pointing to another. Finally, a clever analysis of events and of human motivation leads them to the guilty party. This is psychological suspense at its best, engendered in a novel whose sinuous plot and enigmatic characters will captivate readers as surely as newfound love.