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The Breaker

The Breaker

5.0 2
by Minette Walters, Kevin Whately (Read by)

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The acclaimed international bestselling author hailed by The San Diego Union-Tribune as a "virtuoso of psychological suspense" spins a hypnotic tale of mystery and intrigue.

Twelve hours after a woman's body is washed up on a deserted shore on the south coast of England, her traumatized three-year-old daughter is discovered twenty miles away, alone


The acclaimed international bestselling author hailed by The San Diego Union-Tribune as a "virtuoso of psychological suspense" spins a hypnotic tale of mystery and intrigue.

Twelve hours after a woman's body is washed up on a deserted shore on the south coast of England, her traumatized three-year-old daughter is discovered twenty miles away, alone and apparently abandoned.

But why was Kate killed and her daughter, a witness to her brutal rape and murder, allowed to live? How did the murderer know that the child was unable to speak? And why would Kate, who had a terror of drowning at sea, willingly board a boat?

The obvious suspect is a young actor, a handsome loner obsessed with pornography, who lies about his relationship with Kate. What's more--his sailboat, Crazy Daze, is moored just yards from where the toddler is found.

But as the investigation progresses, police attention shifts to the woman's husband. Was he really on a business trip to Liverpool the night she died? Was Kate indeed the "respectable woman" he claims her to be? Did he love her or hate her?

More disturbing, perhaps--why does his little daughter scream in horror every time he tries to pick her up?

Minette Walters is "a superior storyteller who plumbs psychological depths with an acuity that will have readers enthralled," raved Publishers Weekly of The Echo. With The Breaker, she confirms her position as one of the true masters of crime fiction.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com editor
Here's a snippet from an interview Mystery editor Andrew LeCount conducted with the award-winning Minette Walters. To read the complete interview, click the "Interviews & Essays" link on the left sidebar of this page.

B&N.com: Seems to me that one challenging aspect of writing in the English style is that, since you introduce fewer characters into the fray, it's so much more difficult to keep the killer's identity a secret.

MW: I do think it's a very sophisticated voice, the English voice, actually. And the other thing we can't do, of course, Raymond Chandler said very famously -- when you run out of ideas you bring a man into the room with a gun in his hand [laughs]. I mean, it's so flippant a remark since he's such a great writer, but we can't do that. It's quite difficult to suddenly bring in somebody, to inject that type of action. It lacks verisimilitude since there are very few guns in our society. We've just got rid of all the handguns after a law was passed. Now there are no handguns; I would love America to try the same thing.

San Diego Union
A virtuoso of psychological suspense.
Marilyn Stasio
...[A] tantalizing English whodunit that hinges on the aberrant nature of a crime and the deviant psychology of the people most likely to have committed it....As clues are dropped and lies are uncoveredsuspicion keeps shifting from one man to the other; but clues can be misleadingand everyone lies about sex. —The New York Times Book Review
Jeri Wright
This is a dark, complex, and somehow intimate mystery....The style will likely appeal to fans of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell; while more plot-driven than many of my favorite novels, the plot is so strong that it carried me along with it, making The Breaker an engrossing read.
Mystery Reader.com
Los Angeles Times
Minette Walters knows the cruel kinkiness that can lurk behind the most sedate of facades.
People Magazine
Tantalizing...erotically charged. Walters stakes her claim as a worthy rival to P.D.James and Ruth Rendell.
Library Journal
Suspicion shifts from one person to another in this English whodunit. A strong reading by Robert Powell adds to the overall success of this plot-driven thriller. Clues abound, but so do dark and shameful secrets. It is up to Purbeck Constable Nick Ingram and Dorset Inspector John Gailbrait to unravel the truth from the threads of lies that are told. Character development is a bit spotty, but this is a good tale nonetheless. Note that some scenes do contain explicit language. Recommended.--Denise A. Garofalo, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Los Angeles Times
Minette Walters knows the cruel kinkiness that can lurk behind the most sedate of facades.
Ann Prichard
[A] delightfully oxymoronic; a calm thriller. The author is adept at psychological suspense stories in which horrible crime lurks within idyllic British settings.
USA Today
Kirkus Reviews
When the binoculars that young Paul and Daniel Spender have snitched from their father first give them a glimpse of the body of Kate Hill-Sumner in Chapman's Pool, off the Isle of Purbeck, three other people are also close by: a self-styled actor whose specialty is gay pornography; a horse-boarder whose swindler husband has run off with all her money; and a teenaged girl aboard an offshore boat idly looking for something to videotape. All three will soon be caught up in the Dorset constabulary's relentless probe of the dead woman's secrets. But the most shocking presence is an absence: Kate's toddler Hannah, who's found wandering the streets of Poole. Why would an assailant brutally rape and disfigure Kate and set her daughter free several miles away? In fact, since Hannah screams at any man's approach, who could have attacked Kate while her daughter was near? And how many lies are the shocked widower, pharmaceutical chemist William Sumner, and Steven Harding, the actor who insists that Kate was stalking him, going to tell? In a brilliantly merciless series of interrogations, Purbeck Constable Nick Ingram and Dorset Inspector John Galbraith strip away layer after layer from the artfully constructed lives and personalities their suspects have made for themselves, bringing a ferocious intensity to the question of who killed Kate. Once again, Walters (The Echo, 1997, etc.) breathes new life into the classic whodunit by treating the cast as agonized—and this time monstrously immature—human beings. (Book-of-the-Month main selection)

From the Publisher
“Minette Walters has emerged as one of the [mystery] genre’s superior writers. Her novels are probing and intelligent, her characters riveting and her plots subtle and demanding.”
The Ottawa Citizen

“The grandes dames of the British mystery better watch their backs. A new heiress apparent to the queen-of-crime throne is breathing down their necks – and she’s armed and deliciously dangerous.”
The Winnipeg Sun

“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.”
Publishers Weekly

“A whodunit of the finest order.”
Ottawa Citizen

“A topnotch mystery that does not let you go.”
Saskatoon StarPhoenix

“Walters has outdone herself.”
Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Product Details

Pan Macmillan
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 4.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The woman lay on her back on the pebble foreshore at the foot of Houns-tout Cliff, staring at the cloudless sky above, her pale blond hair drying into a frizz of tight curls in the hot sun. A smear of sand across her abdomen gave the impression of wispy clothing, but the brown circles of her nipples and the hair sprouting at her crotch told anyone who cared to look that she was naked. One arm curved languidly around her head while the other rested palm-up on the sea-washed pebbles, the fingers curling in the tiny wavelets that bubbled over them as the tide rose; her legs, opened shamelessly in relaxation, seemed to invite the sun's warmth to penetrate directly into her body.

    Above her loomed the grim shale escarpment of Houns-tout Cliff, irregularly striped with the hardy vegetation that clung to its ledges. So often shrouded in mist and rain during the autumn and winter, it looked benign in the brilliant summer sunlight. A mile away to the west, on the Dorset Coast Path that hugged the clifftops to Weymouth, a party of hikers approached at a leisurely, pace, pausing every now and then to watch cormorants and shags plummet into the sea like tiny guided missiles. To the east, on the path to Swanage, a single male walker passed the Norman chapel on St. Alban's Head on his way to the rock-girt crucible of Chapman's Pool, whose clear blue waters made an attractive anchorage when the wind was light and offshore. Because of the steep hills that surround it, pedestrian visitors to its beaches were rare, but at lunchtime on a fine weekend upwards of ten boats rode at anchor there, bobbing in staggered formation as the gentle swells passed under each in turn.

    A single boat, a thirty-two-foot Princess, had already nosed in through the entrance channel, and the rattle of its anchor chain over its idling engines carried clearly on the air. Not far behind, the bow of a Fairline Squadron carved through the race off St. Alban's Head, giving the yachts that wallowed lazily in the light winds a wide berth in its progress toward the bay. It was a quarter past ten on one of the hottest Sundays of the year, but out of sight around Egmont Point the naked sunbather appeared oblivious to both the shimmering heat and the increasing likelihood of company.

    The Spender brothers, Paul and Daniel, had spotted the nudist as they rounded the Point with their fishing rods, and they were now perched precariously on an unstable ledge some hundred feet above her and to her right. They took turns looking at her through their father's expensive binoculars, which they had smuggled out of the rented holiday cottage in a bundle of T-shirts, rods, and tackle. It was the middle weekend of their two weeks' holiday, and as far as the elder brother was concerned, fishing had only ever been a pretext. This remote part of the Isle of Purbeck held little attraction for an awakening adolescent, having few inhabitants, fewer distractions, and no sandy beaches. His intention had always been to spy on bikini-clad women draped over the expensive motor cruisers in Chapman's Pool.

    "Mum said we weren't to climb the cliffs because they're dangerous," whispered Danny, the virtuous ten-year-old, less interested than his brother in the sight of bare flesh.

    "Shut up."

    "She'd kill us if she knew we were looking at a nudie."

    "You're just scared because you've never seen one before."

    "Neither've you," muttered the younger boy indignantly. "Anyway, she's a dirty person. I bet loads of people can see her."

    Paul, the elder by two years, treated this remark with the scorn it deserved—they hadn't passed a soul on their way around Chapman's Pool. Instead, he concentrated on the wonderfully accessible body below. He couldn't see much of the woman's face because she was lying with her feet pointing toward them, but the magnification of the lenses was so powerful that he could see every other detail of her. He was too ignorant of the naked female form to question the bruises that blotched her skin, but he knew afterward that he wouldn't have questioned them anyway, even if he'd known what they meant. He had fantasized about something like this happening—discovering a quiescent, unmoving woman who allowed him to explore her at his leisure, if only through binoculars. He found the soft flow of her breasts unbearably erotic and dwelled at length on her nipples, wondering what it would be like to touch them and what would happen if he did. Lovingly he traversed the length of her midriff, pausing on the dimple of her belly button, before returning to what interested him most, her opened legs and what lay between them. He crawled forward on his elbows, writhing his body.

    "What are you doing?" demanded Danny suspiciously, crawling up beside him. "Are you being dirty?"

    "`Course not." He gave the boy a savage thump on the arm. "That's all you ever think about, isn't it? Being dirty. You'd better watch it, penis-brain, or I'll tell Dad on you."

    In the inevitable fight that followed—a grunting, red-faced brawl of hooked arms and kicking feet—the Zeiss binoculars slipped from the elder brother's grasp and clattered down the slope, dislodging an avalanche of shale in the process. The boys, united in terror of what their father was going to say, abandoned the fight to wriggle back from the brink and stare in dismay after the binoculars.

    "It's your fault if they're broken," hissed the ten-year-old. "You're the one who dropped them."

    But for once his brother didn't rise to the bait. He was more interested in the body's continued immobility. With an awful sense of foreboding it dawned on him that he'd been masturbating over a dead woman.

Meet the Author

The broadcast of the brilliant film adaptations of her novels on Showcase has crowned Minette Walters the new Canadian queen of British mystery writers. Her career has been little short of astonishing: With her debut novel, The Ice House, she won the British Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey Award for the best first crime novel of 1992. Her second mystery, The Sculptress, won the U.S. Edgar Allan Poe Award for the best crime novel published in 1993. In 1994, she achieved a unique triple when The Scold’s Bridle was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger for the best crime novel of the year. Her fourth novel, The Dark Room, received further critical acclaim when it appeared in 1995. The Echo, her fifth novel, was said by many reviewers to be her best, most intriguing mystery to date. Her sixth novel, The Breaker, was similarly praised and her seventh, The Shape of Snakes, was published to rave reviews. Minette Walters lives in Dorset, England.

Brief Biography

Dorchester, Dorset, England
Date of Birth:
September 26, 1949
Place of Birth:
Bishop¿s Stortford, Hertfordshire, England
B.A. in French, Dunelm (Durham University), 1971

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The Breaker 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You can allmost smell the sea and hear the sailboat rigging tapping against the masts in this twisting turning story of murder and deceit.Her Characters are so lifelike you feel as if you know them all personally. And if you come from this part of England , and I do, you understand perfectly all the nuances of these characters that make them so special. I could not put it down and read it in three sittings.I am now looking for her other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago