The Devil's Feather
Minette Walters
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Buy *The Devil's Feather* by Minette Walters online

The Devil's Feather
Minette Walters
368 pages
July 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Devil's Feather.

The setting is Freetown, Sierra Leone in 2003. Five women have been viciously raped, tortured and murdered, their faces and necks horribly slashed with a machete. A man who goes by the name of John Harwood might have been liable for the series of killings and also responsible for a possible attack on a prostitute.

The local hookers have learned very quickly to avoid Harwood after he hurt one so badly she had to be hospitalized. Some of the local ex-pat community have even seen him cursing and lashing out at the girls in pidgin English and calling them the "devil's feathers."

Harwood is careful not to attract the attention of the Europeans, but that doesn't stop British Zimbabwean news correspondent Connie Burns, currently on assignment in Freetown, from doing some investigating.

Connie is sure she remembers Harwood as none other than Keith MacKenzie, part of a mercenary group fighting for Laurent Kabila's regime in Kinshasa. Connie wonders why he's assumed an alias and how he has acquired a passport of John Harwood.

On the eve of her departure, he arrives on her doorstop threatening her, saying that "for people like us the world's smaller than you think." It is only later, when she has posted to Iraq and spies him doing training exercises in Baghdad under a different name, that Connie raises the issue with the authorities.

Dismissed as unreliable and malicious, she searches the Iraq press for murders similiar to those in Freetown. When she finds two killings that suit the profile, her attempts to raise interest among Iraqi journalists go nowhere.

Things take a turn for the worse when shortly afterward she is abducted on her way to the airport by an unknown group and released three days later. Blindfolded the entire time, Connie is unable to give the police any useful information about her ordeal. She is branded "a faker," especially as an Italian woman has just been released by her captors.

On her return to the United Kingdom, she goes into hiding, terrified that MacKenzie is looking for her, certain that he was responsible for her kidnapping. Ignoring all press interviews and telling only her parents of her whereabouts, Connie sequesters herself deep within the Dorset countryside, renting the tumbedown Barton House.

But Connie can't seem escape what has happened to her. Put in a position of weakness by a man who can't control her any other way, she becomes Mackenzie's "devil's feather," convinced she is crushable.

Connie tries to find peace, but she becomes unwittingly caught up in a neighborhood conflict between local girl Jess Derbyshire and Madeleine Wright, the self-important owner of Barton House. Madeleine spreads her poisonous rumors, trying to place Jess in a bad light, intent on ridiculing Jess and her unresolved attachment to this ancestral home.

Author Minette Walters explores what it really means to be a psychopath as well of the terror of being in an isolated place with little protection, deep within the pristine Dorset countryside.

As the plot steamrolls towards its inevitable conclusion, the events forever traumatize the already vulnerable and psychologically devastated Connie who is irrevocably forced to face one of the most important tests of her life.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2006

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