The Breaker

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Overview

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.... The obvious suspect is a young actor, a handsome loner obsessed with pornography, who lies about his relationship with the murdered woman. But as the investigation progresses, police attention shifts to the woman'shusband. Was he in fact on a business trip to Liverpool the night she died? Was she indeed the ...
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Overview

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.... The obvious suspect is a young actor, a handsome loner obsessed with pornography, who lies about his relationship with the murdered woman. But as the investigation progresses, police attention shifts to the woman'shusband. Was he in fact on a business trip to Liverpool the night she died? Was she indeed the "respectable woman" he claims her to have been? Did he love her or hate her? And more disturbing, why does his little daughter scream in horror every time he tries to pick her up?
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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.\
People Magazine
Tantalizing...erotically charged. Walters stakes her claim as a worthy rival to P.D.James and Ruth Rendell.
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 uncovered, suspicion keeps shifting from one man to the other; but clues can be misleading, and everyone lies about sex.
The New York Times Book Review
San Diego Union
A virtuoso of psychological suspense.
Los Angeles Times
Minette Walters knows the cruel kinkiness that can lurk behind the most sedate of facades.
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.
The Mystery Reader.com
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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780515128826
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.36 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Minette Walters

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.

Good To Know

In our interview with Walters, she shared some fascinating facts about her interests, hobbies, and favorite ways to unwind:

"I've been married for nearly 25 years, have two sons, lead a very contented life in the wilds of Dorset with horses, chickens, dogs, sheep, and write some of the darkest psychological mysteries you'll ever read! I've been described as a woman ‘whose imagination makes her dangerous to know'!"

"I have spent a great deal of time in prison over the last 14 years -- both as a prison visitor, public speaker, and teaching assistant. While I have never used any individual's case as the basis for a book, I have learned a great deal about prisoners' backgrounds and what leads them to prison. The reasons tend to be similar -- dysfunctional family life, minimal parenting, early truanting, poor literacy levels, low self-esteem, no anger-management skills, difficulty relating to others -- and many of these issues are reflected in my novels."

"My major hobby and the way I always unwind is to decorate my house while listening to the many excellent BBC stations on the radio. As a news junkie, my favorites are Radio 4 and Radio 5 -- some of whose material can be accessed via the Internet or on the BBC World Service. Enjoy, if you can find them!"

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    1. Hometown:
      Dorchester, Dorset, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 26, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, England
    1. Education:
      B.A. in French, Dunelm (Durham University), 1971
    2. Website:

First Chapter

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.

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Interviews & Essays

A Q&A with Minette Walters

Minette Walters, the Edgar Award-winning author of The Sculptress and other highly regarded tales of psychological-suspense mysteries, spoke with B&N.com editor Andrew LeCount from across the pond about her novel, The Breaker. During the chat, Walters also discussed the mind of a rapist, capital punishment, and the fascinating differences between American- and English-based crime fiction. Enjoy what the very charming Minette Walters has to say.

B&N.com: Good afternoon Minette. The Breaker takes place in England at a place called Chapman's Pool, off the Isle of Purbeck. Have you spent time in that region yourself?

Minette Walters: Yeah, well we're now living about ten miles away from it. We moved about five months ago after the book was finished. But we sail into it a lot.

B&N.com: When you first saw those cliffs, were you inspired to write a story about them?

MW: No, not really. We've been sailing into it for, good lord, must be about ten years now. I was intrigued by what would happen if a body washed up on the shore because it is so inaccessible, except by sea or by air, and I just thought, one day, it would be interesting. Put a body there and see what happens.

B&N.com: Talk about your novel, The Breaker. Can you set it up for us?

MW: I've counterbalanced what is kind of a motive phenomenon in one respect, which is: You must take what you want when you want it; that, in itself, is the rape of Kate, because there's no kindness in it -- it's an assertion of the murderer's wish to do what he wants when he wants to do it. Now, I've counterbalanced that with the very patient courtship that Nick Ingram goes for over Maggie. And it's quite important that those two ideas are balanced, I think, because Kate herself isn't a terribly nice person -- and very deliberately so -- because when you judge rape, you don't judge it by deciding whether or not somebody is nice. It's a crime, it's a very brutal act, and you judge the crime, not the victim. Of course, I don't know how it works in America, that with a rape victim, her background is always put on trial. That, I think, is atrocious. So, very deliberately, I set out right from the start that Kate would not be an attractive person. And she is not. I rather like her because she has an immense love for her child, but to the reader she's not a very attractive person. It's simply trying to remind people: You don't judge the victim; you judge the crime.

B&N.com: When writing The Breaker, did you research specific incidences of rape?

MW: Yes. I've actually met a lot of rapists as a prison visitor -- probably met, what, a dozen -- spoken to them long-term, in some cases a year. They are very interesting characters. They do tend to be very, very inadequate. They also tend to be illiterate, very much lacking in self-esteem, and it always interests me that we do demonize them -- the press demonizes them and makes them look more frightening than they should be. I think if women can begin to look on rapists as inadequate people, and if other men looked on rapists as inadequate people, I just wonder if the instance of rape wouldn't drop because the average man doesn't like to be thought of as pathetic. I think of the rapist as a very pathetic character, but we don't do that. We always refer to them as predatory, dangerous, evil, and of course, this is a wonderful tag if you're an inadequate man whose only way of getting the sort of sex that thrills you is by going out and attacking someone you perceive to be weaker. To be labeled evil or predatory or demonic is a fantastic boost to his ego. We should actually put to them that they are very sad, and we're going to treat them as an unbalanced personality, and in fact I think, by and large, they are.

B&N.com: That's an interesting twist, to think of rapists as weak and infantile.

MW: Totally. They're very childish, very immature people, by and large. They've never properly grown up; they've never been able to form any sensible relationships, particularly with women; and they're usually very afraid of their mothers. I'll tell you a lovely story; I treasure this story greatly. When I was in Australia, I met this woman who was telling me about the time when she was approached by a rapist. She was walking on a road and this man lashed out at her. She was a big, big girl, very tall and wide, and instead of being frightened, she ripped her blouse apart and displayed her bare breasts and started to scream at the top of her voice. He was so terrified by this huge display of feminine aggression and large, feminine breasts that he turned tail and ran. [laughs]. I mean, it's a frightening thing to happen to anybody, but if women could find that courage, I do think men would be so appalled and so shocked. It's so difficult, you can't...when you're faced with it, it's a different matter altogether, although I love the idea of women trying not to be frightened by it, because if you can find the courage and the kind of aggression from somewhere, I think they usually turn tail and run.

B&N.com: I like that: Stop demonizing rapists and start labeling them as weak. Maybe more women would be able to muster this courage and aggression.

MW: The other thing that I find interesting is that women are very strong. I don't mean physically; I mean mentally. I don't know any weak women. The other thing that's always annoyed me about elevating the rapist to a predatory animal is that it implies that all women are weak and pathetic, and they're not. Women need to just remember that they're the equals of anybody. But it's hard -- it's very easy to say these things; it's very much harder when somebody approaches you and you're caught off guard.

B&N.com: The Breaker also deals with the drug Rohypnol, commonly known as the "date rape" drug. This drug has been banned in America. Has it been in Great Britain?

MW: Oh, no, no, we're lagging way behind. I think you've banned it about two years ago. Your police forces have taken a very strong and responsible approach to Rohypnol, but over here the police look at you with surprise and say "Rohypnol, what's that?" It's a very pernicious drug. They've changed the formula so there's a slow-releasing blue dye, but it takes 20 minutes -- I think I'm right on that -- 20 minutes for the dye to be released, 'course by which time the woman has probably already drunk the drink, and it's frightful.

B&N.com: So, in Great Britain, it's still used in medicinal capacities?

MW: It's a hypnotic; it's extremely effective for people who have sleeping problems. But it's awful -- it reduces somebody who's never had it, or doesn't know they've had it, to an absolute zombie. They're completely incapable of doing anything. They just basically go to sleep; they're unconscious and then can't remember anything that's happened to them until like 72 hours later. And by that time, whatever forensic evidence might be brought in the way of semen or something like that is gone. It's very dangerous.

B&N.com: Well, hopefully England will...

MW: Wake up! [laughs] Needless to say, when you catch cold, we sneeze. Or the other way around. Takes about ten years.

B&N.com: While we're discussing a difference between American and British culture and sensibility, talk a little bit about the differences between American and British styles in mystery writing.

MW: I think there are two distinctions in crime fiction, and I really hope that they remain distinct from each other because I think it's so interesting. The English tradition grew up out of the sort of Sherlock Holmes-style of analysis and psychology and looking at characters -- there's very strong character portrayal -- and it was by looking at characters that you came to a solution, or by examining the characters that you came to a solution. Whereas in America, you started with the Conan Doyle style, but that was taken over, if you like, by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and then it became much more of a pursuit style, hard-boiled, very action-packed. I like the idea that you can talk about the English voice in crime and the American voice in crime, and then of course, I do a lot of traveling around the world -- and the interesting thing is seeing how Europe, for example, is much, much happier with the English voice than it is with the American voice by and large. When you go to Germany, they like the English style. But then, if you go to Australia...now, I'm not very big in Australia [laughs], so maybe I should not say this, but you know, in other parts of the world, it's the American voice that's the powerful one. In Britain, it's absolutely 50/50.

B&N.com: Would you say that the thriller, which is completely action-oriented, branched from the American style?

MW: Well, yeah, but then you could say there's the psychological voice -- the English psychological voice is what I'm doing, which is the psychological thriller. But in America, the psychological voice, if you like, is the serial-killer thriller; here they've taken the psychology from Quantico -- you know, the profiling -- and they've worked that into immensely patient novels that deal with the pursuit across state boundaries and the building of profiles in order to then identify the stranger murderer. In Britain, the psychological thriller works because you put only a handful of people into the frame. It's very claustrophobic. It's a very small tapestry, and you look at each character very, very closely. There are people over here writing serial-killer thrillers, but they aren't as effective as they are from America. For one, we don't have guns [laughs], we don't have policemen with guns, we don't have state boundaries, and, you know, it's so much smaller, the pursuit around England is extremely limited [laughs].

B&N.com: Geography plays into the two styles quite a bit.

MW: I think that's right. In fact, in the beginning of the American version of The Breaker, there's something that isn't in the English version: We've put in more maps, and I've done a little introduction about Dorsett, and it's simply to try and get over the fact that England is so tiny compared with the States. I mean, I don't know, I think England, the whole of the United Kingdom, could probably fit into California about six times, and yet we've got 46 different police forces. And they deal with very small territories. Dorsett is a thousand square miles but has its own police force. It's a whole different scale. That's why, I think, that the two voices are so different. And you see, what people don't understand is that Scotland Yard doesn't exist anymore in the way it used to. In the '30s and '40s, you had Agatha Christie calling Scotland Yard in to help out in a case -- that just doesn't happen anymore.

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.

B&N.com: Especially after the Colorado high school shooting, guns are just too easy to obtain in America.

MW: I don't know if it's true, but I heard a statistic: There are 200 million guns in your society, legal guns. That's almost a gun per person. I don't know how you're ever going to stop that kind of thing or if you can get rid of them, because if people with that kind of mentality can obtain a gun that easily, they're bound to use it eventually. It's not to say that our society is any better, 'cause we've had instances of massacres like that, but, having said all that, we have taken handguns out now. I feel it's something one has to do, and I think anybody with a gun in their hand forgets how easy it is to kill; I think that's the terrible thing. When you're a disaffected adolescent -- I mean, let's face it, most adolescents are disaffected -- but when you're one who doesn't mind if you die, I think that's when it becomes very dangerous, if at that point you can get hold of weapons. It's a different matter if you can only use a knife; you're probably only ever going to manage to kill -- I mean, it's awful that they should even do that -- but you'd probably only kill one person. With guns, you can kill so many. However, that's a morbid conversation.

B&N.com: But it is fascinating. Have you ever had an opportunity to meet and watch real constables work?

MW: That's really very easy [laughs]. In this country you can just walk up; we still have bobbies on the beat, they all wander around, anybody can go and ask a policemen how he does it, and you can always go and visit police stations. Actually, a lot of the information I have I've gotten from visiting people in prison; I've been doing it for ten years. It's quite interesting. It's very easy to access information about the police, much harder, in a way, to access information from the other side. You can get a lot of information from prisoners.

B&N.com: What inspired you to want to visit prisons in the first place?

MW: I think it must be a genetic thing, because my great, great grandfather was inspector general of prisons in the last century. He was one of the great prison reformers, and I was deeply appalled to discover that our prisons hadn't changed much since his time. So, I thought, one way of going in and finding out would be to go in as a prison visitor. I thought I'd probably only do it for about three months, but you do become quite hooked, and prisoners are very interesting.

B&N.com: And they're very willing to talk?

MW: Yeah, yeah. They all know who I am. I think they quite like me to write their stories. They're very funny people by and large, because prison's pretty grim and if you don't have a sense of humor...but our prisons are very different from your prisons, you know?

B&N.com: How so?

MW: They tend to be much freer and, again, there are no weapons, so the prisons really are run by the good will of the prisoners. You've probably got something like no more than 20 officers looking after something like 450 to 500 male prisoners. No weapons, and a lot of those prison officers are women; it's getting to 50% now in a male prison -- 50% of the officers will be women. It's done by building very good relationships between prison officers and prisoners, and also, prisoners accept that that's where they ought to be because of what they have done. It's a fascinating institution. And we've had riots, good grief, we have riots from time to time, but by and large, the culture within prison is very well-balanced.

B&N.com: Are there varying degrees of prisons as in America -- minimum security, maximum security, etc.

MW: We do have maximum security, but it tends to be more that you'll have a maximum security wing within a prison, and then the whole prison is dubbed maximum security, just because of the one wing. I think that's the only type of prison that possibly approximates an American prison; they're the most modern, where the terrorists are held. But our prisons, by and large, are slightly more relaxed. Now, of course, America still has capital punishment. I think now you and Saudi Arabia are the only countries -- I'm having a little dig here because I'm very opposed to capital punishment. I think it's such a tragedy. It is quite shocking to think that it's only the fundamentalist or Islamic countries and America that still have capital punishment. No one in Europe has it. Most prisons in Europe are like Britain, very relaxed. Sweden has the most relaxed prison system in the world. Some prisoners are allowed out weekends. It works the other way too: Some are allowed to keep their jobs and only have to go to prison on the weekends. But it works; it's quite successful. Sweden is not a notably violent or criminal country.

B&N.com: Just grab some skis and go for the slopes.

MW: Yeah, it is a bit cold [laughs].

B&N.com: Maybe that's it, everybody stays inside. So, do you have any plans to write another story that features Constable Nick Ingram?

MW: Oh no, no. I don't write a series character. Each book is on its own. I'm unusual in this respect. I don't see why crime fiction should have to follow any certain rules, and I didn't follow the rule when I wrote The Sculptress after The Ice House, but I think, thank God, it's all being accepted. What I will tell you, it's quite interesting, but the BBC is filming me writing the next book. And it's a project -- they're doing four different authors, all very different. They're doing A.S. Byatt and two writers whose names off the top of my head I just can't remember -- isn't that terrible -- so they're following each of us for 12 months with the intention of trying to see how the process works. That's all I'm going to tell you.

B&N.com: Well, we'll certainly look forward to seeing that special here in America.

MW: It should be on PBS. I think it will be very interesting to see how four different writers approach the job of writing.

B&N.com: Do you find it more difficult to work with a camera trained on you?

MW: Well no, because I can operate it. I've just done four days in Slovenia, and they came with me. They were absolutely exhausted [laughs].

B&N.com: [laughs] You're hard to keep up with?

MW: Yeah, well, they just could not believe that an author's publicity schedule could be so intense. Is this what it's like all the time, they asked? And I said, No, you'll have to come to America with me. America's a nightmare. Different state every day [laughs].

B&N.com: Are you doing an American tour for The Breaker?

MW: No, I'm not, but I think I will for the next one; in a couple of year's time, I'll be out there. My publisher has let me off this time, very nice of them, and I'm most appreciative [laughs].

B&N.com: Thank you very much for speaking with us today, Minette. Good luck with The Breaker.

MW: Thank you. My pleasure.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2000

    Walters rules the Waves

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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