This Picador Classic edition of Minette Walters’ The Sculptress features an introduction by Stephanie Merritt, journalist and author of While You Sleep.
The facts of the case were simple: Olive Martin murdered her mother and sister and cut them into tiny pieces. She pled guilty to the crime and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Once incarcerated, she spends her days carving miniature human figures out of wax, earning herself the nickname ‘The Sculptress’. But is murder ever that simple? When Rosalind Leigh, an investigative journalist, is persuaded to research Olive’s background, she believes she has uncovered an injustice. If so, she has found the story of a lifetime, a story that may save her faltering career. Yet to write it she must speak with Olive, and she is ill-prepared, both emotionally and psychologically, for the monstrous – but childlike – woman she meets.
Awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Award when it was first published in 1994, The Sculptress is a pioneering novel, undeniably influencing many of today’s dark, domestic thrillers which dominate the bestseller lists. An unforgettably menacing, gripping and twisting work, Walters will hold you on a knife-edge as Rosalind attempts to untangle the truth about Olive Martin.
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.