Thursday, July 8, 2010

While many people who wind up in prison claim to be innocent of the crimes they were convicted of, there are undoubtedly some who are unjustly imprisoned. The innocence or guilt of one woman forms the story of the film The Sculptress, based on the novel of the same name by Minette Walter.

Overweight Olive lives at home with her parents and beautiful sister Amber. One day the police are called to the home to find Olive covered in blood, and her mother and Amber dismembered in the kitchen. Since Olive is the only unharmed person present, she is arrested. She soon confesses to the crime and is sent to prison, where she earns the nickname "The Sculptress" because of the way the bodies were cut up. Funny, I didn't think artists routinely worked with meat cleavers and blood, but I guess that is the artistic temperament for you!

Enter Rosalind Leigh, an author who is commissioned to write a book about Olive and the murders. Rosalind is somewhat damaged herself, having recently endured the death of her young daughter. Because her husband was drinking at the time of the accident which killer their daughter, Rosalind has broken off her relationship with him. She's just starting to get on with her life when she gets the assignment to interview Olive.

Rosalind's first meeting with Olive in prison is uncomfortable. Olive is a hulking, unsmiling presence, and she is less than forthcoming when answering Rosalind's questions. Not even sure she wants to write the book, Rosalind nevertheless finds herself becoming intrigued with the case. As part of her research, she interviews the first policeman on the case. Hal Hawksley was so traumatized by the sight that greeted him in the kitchen that he left the police force and opened a pub. But strange things are happening at the pub, too . . .

As Rosalind digs deeper into the case, Olive becomes more of a sympathetic character. Rosalind begins to wonder, could Olive actually be innocent? There are certainly other possible suspects: Olive's father, a shifty neighbor, or and enemy of the lovely but sadistic Amber. As she attempts to investigate the case, Rosalind is convinced that Olive's confession was given in order to protect someone and that the police didn't do a thorough investigation.

At the same time, Olive is shifty-eyed and secretive. She tells sad stories only to deny them later. Is she truly innocent, or a master manipulator? Evidence is shown for both sides. And just who is her lawyer in cahoots with? And what does it all have to do with the many "accidents" that befall Hal's pub?

The interconnected events are eventually explained, although not all questions are answered. I know we were supposed to be left somewhat in the dark at the end of the story, but all of Olive's back and forth stories ended up leaving me more confused than conflicted!

Final verdict for The Sculptress: Three gherkins, for being a suspenseful, if somewhat unsatisfying mystery


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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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