After reading my first Walters novel “The Breaker” (1998) and thoroughly enjoying it I thought I’d go back and explore her earlier work and this is where I began. This is probably her most famous book, because of a BBC TV series which starred Pauline Quirke (I never saw it) playing the grotesque, overweight Olive Martin, a convicted axe murder found guilty of chopping up her mother and sister. The central character is a female writer who is reluctantly commissioned to write Olive’s life story and what starts off as a gruesome search for sensationalism leads to the belief that Olive may be innocent. For me main character Roz is the weak point. She isn’t particularly likeable or convincing. This is especially the case with her relationship with a retired policeman from the case- a relationship which seems implausible and unreal. Olive, a larger than life figure, is relegated to the sidelines in the novel and this seems a bit of a missed opportunity. I wonder if the part was beefed up (in every sense) for the TV series. I would have liked more Olive and less of Roz and her policeman turned restauranteur. It all resolves itself well with a lot of possible scenarios going on at once. Walters seems to be deft at handling plot strands. It is reasonably well-paced and there is skilful storytelling. It is twenty two years old and crime novels do date and I am convinced that later novels will show more rounded characterisation cementing Minette Walter’s reputation as one of Britain’s best crime writers.