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Too close for comfort?
Acid Row - Minette Walters
Member Name: Foxy-Lady
Acid Row - Minette Walters
Date: 26/08/04, updated on 17/02/05 (832 review reads)
Advantages: Modern thriller, Gripping
Disadvantages: Quite gruesome in parts!
I don?t actually have any children but I know that a parents worst nightmare would become reality the minute they found out that a registered paedophile had been housed on their street...
Melanie Patterson is a teenage mum of two with a third baby on the way. She lives on the suburban Bassindale Estate, more commonly known as ?Acid Row? by its residents. Created to provide subsidized housing for those people with low income, Bassindale began with all good intentions. Slowly but surely it became little more than a receptacle for societys rejects and is now home to the ?undesirables?....full of uneducated villains and a place where youths rule the roost with their fists and weapons whilst being in charge of drug pushing and prostitution. Young mothers are forced to bring up their children surrounded by violence and crime, and the elderly are afraid to leave their homes.
The majority of Acid Rows residents might not be the nicest of people but when the safety of their children is concerned, they deserve a certain amount of respect. During a heated argument with a disgruntled social worker, a few careless words are spoken and the big secret is out. Melanie discovers that the authorities have rehoused a child molester somewhere on her street.
Obviously very worried about the news she decides to confront her health visitor, Sophie Morrison, as the young community doctor is one of the only people who seems to care about the welfare of the estates inhabitants. Unfortunately Sophie is unaware of this information and denies all knowledge. This enrages Melanie even further as she feels that she is being lied to. If the local authorities have been irresponsible enough to house a beast like this on an estate full of kids then surely she should be given some answers....surely she has the right to know the truth!
How would you feel if you
heard that a convicted paedophile was living virtually on your doorstep? It may be hard to imagine but it does happen. I think I am correct in saying that you would want to know who this person is as you would understandably want to protect your children. You would want this person out!
Unconfirmed rumours begin to circulate within Acid Row. Due to the lack of communication Melanie is completely outraged by what she perceives as a direct threat to her offspring, so she organises a march - the idea being for mums and their youngsters to gather together in a peaceful protest about the pervert residing in their neighbourhood.
In the meantime, a 10 year old child is reported as being missing. Although the little girl lives approximately 20 miles away from the estate, the local louts come to the assumption that this paedophile has got something to do with her disappearance. Unbeknown to Melanie, trouble is brewing. These wild accusations fuel the hooligans to join her on the demonstration....and turn it into a riot.
They have an idea who the sicko is but it?s all a result of speculation. Are they pointing the finger of blame at the right person and if so, is he actually responsible for what they are accusing him of?
Barricades go up at every entrance into the estate, dangerously preventing the police and emergency services from gaining access. The event rapidly gets out of control and complete bedlam inevitably ensues. From this point on the main story and its subplot are cleverly woven together to create a fast moving story with numerous layers of tension.
The police begin to question people, including friends and family, in a desperate attempt to find the missing child. Every possible motive is examined to try to fathom exactly what has happened to her. At the same time all hell breaks loose on Acid Row.
We are intro
duced to the paedophile and discover that he is severely emotionally repressed and deeply introverted....a result of living with his abusive, sadistic father for so many years. Sensing the approaching danger the pair decide to take a hostage to act as protection against the angry crowd surrounding their house. Not knowing about the hostage, the rioting continues with increasing aggresive behaviour, giving the impression that these people have been searching for any old excuse to start an uproar. And all because of pent up anger and emotions directed towards society in general, for reasons only known to themselves.
Without giving too much of the plot away I will just tell you that the parallel stories continue and build up to an exciting but also horrific outcome with devastating and tragic consequences including inevitable fatalities.
Acid Row is by no means a traditional thriller, therefore I feel that it perhaps may not appeal to all readers. Contemporary social elements form the strong theme of the story. It is a relevant reflection of present times and Minette Walters has tackled what I consider to be a brave subject in light of recent saddening events that have made the news headlines, and the seemingly increasing problem of paedophiles in our society.
The reader is confronted with numerous modern day issues such as paedophilia, racism and drugs. Moralities and preconceptions are certainly questioned making it a thought provoking read. This is complimented by the authentic samples and excerpts of police reports and newspaper articles which are inserted throughout the book, a technique which adds a sense of drama and urgency to the story and also succeeds in maintaining suspense from start to finish.
Walters utilises the grim setting of the Bassindale Esate as an impactful backdrop for this gritty thriller. The book is firmly placed in the working
class which in my opinion seems to be a bad point to a certain degree. I feel that Walters must have done research for this but some of it just doesn?t seem quite right. Particularly some of the characterisation and dialogue which at times comes across as cliched and emphasized so much that it?s a bit too stereotypical, almost verging on the offensive.
This is not to say that the story isn?t well written though. It is and I couldn?t wait to find out what happened next!
In typical Walters style psychological perceptions play a strong part in the visual storytelling. Instead of the usual individual character analogy the focus is on the accurate portrayal of the complex mob psychology which is present amidst the vigilante group. The reader is still able to distinguish basic personalities of the key characters, although you never manage to actually get into the head of any of the characters....viewing them from a distance and not delving much deeper than the surface. Character development is usually quite an important factor to me but in this instance I didn?t think that it was vital to the plot.
The ending of the book is not quite what you would expect. There is a sad element but good does come out of it too. Heroes are found in the most unlikely of people and I was oddly disturbed to find that I actually began to feel a hint of sympathy towards the paedophile in this particular story. Read it for yourself to understand why!
At first I wasn?t sure that I would like this book - partly due to its subject matter and the thought that I would be subjected to nasty scenes of child abuse but there aren?t any really. An impression is given when necessary but nothing more. I was also slightly put off by the the fact that it revolves around a series of events that occur over such a short period of time. I would usually get bored and find this k
ind of style monotonous but my interest was sustained throughout. The realism in the writing is convincing and creates a disturbing, sometimes harrowing tale with the description of some quite sickening scenes. Despite this, the book is gripping to say the least and the shock factor makes you realise that this sort of reaction could happen on your very own doorstep.
As the cover says....bringing crime uncomfortably close to home.
Cover price: £6.99 (available on Amazon for £5.59)
Published by: Pan Books
ISBN: 0 330 489461
Capital letters courtesy of: www.chuckleweb.co.uk/fixit.php