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Olive Martin, convicted of the brutal ax murders of her mother and sister, is the Sculptress, so-called because she spends her solitary days in prison carving tiny, grotesquely distorted human figures out of wax. Rosalind Leigh, a best-selling author with a bad case of writer's block, is told by her publisher to produce a book on the hapless ax murderess by the end of the year or else. Reluctantly, Roz interviews Olive and immediately becomes intrigued with the woman whose hideous obesity hides what Roz perceives as childishly devious intelligence. Roz begins to believe Olive is innocent of the horrible crime and, investigating her story, soon finds plenty of reasons to doubt the official police version of the killings. Walters mesmerizes her readers with a sleek, exciting tale whose slick veneer disguises a sinister, menacing evil. Stunning in its intensity, this powerful novel should establish Walters as one of today's more intelligent writers of psychological suspense. ~--Emily Melton

Publishers Weekly
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Walters, whose first mystery, The Ice House , was well received on this side of the Atlantic, attempts a combination of psychological thriller and mystery here that doesn't quite come off. Roz Leigh, an author embittered by the tragic death of a child and a split from her husband, agrees to write the story of Olive Martin, a grossly fat, untidy woman serving a long prison sentence for the particularly grisly murder of her mother and sister. Visiting Olive in jail, Roz finds herself drawn to the woman, and despite the fact that ``the sculptress'' readily confessed to the crime, she begins to find odd discrepancies in the evidence against her. Roz becomes involved with the former policeman who arrested Olive (and who had his own doubts), and together they unravel the complicated morass of sex and madness that led to the butchery. While there are many intriguing plot turns, Olive's odd personality never quite convinces and subplots about the ex-policeman's restaurant and Olive's crooked lawyer are largely extraneous. For most of the way, despite these caveats and the novel's continuing strain on credulity, this is still a gripping read. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved