“Bennie, looking even smaller than he had in life, lay before me. I didn´t need to touch him to know that he was dead, but I bent and stroked his coarse fur even so. There were a few shallow wounds around his face and neck where he´d injured himself, scrambling to be free as he´d sunk deeper into whatever pond or river he´d been flung. But the sack still wasn´t empty. I moved my fingers and something else fell out. Terribly injured, its body badly mauled and just about torn apart in places, the snake convulsed once before falling still.”
Who has doled out Roman justice? After the prologue, the plot begins when Clara Benning, the local vet and recluse, is called in to save a baby from a poisonous snake in its cot. Miss Benning feels safer around animals than humans, but when snakes of all kinds swamp the neighbourhood, she is forced to accept the assistance of Matt Hoare, Assistant Chief Constable, and Sean North, TV celebrity for his expertise on reptiles.
The story takes place in a village where everybody knows everybody else, except Clara who does her best to stay clear of two-legged creatures because she thinks they stare at her scarred face. So Clara has her own skeleton in the cupboard, just like the village where the dramatic occurrences are apparently related to the Witcher family and to the local church burning down in 1958.
So far all was very well, but here is my mid-way reading report: Clara Benning is being interrogated by two hostile policemen in an unlikely damsel-in-distress scenario, accused of – among other things – having assaulted six healthy, young people. After this cliché I found it hard to concentrate on the plot, and it seems to me that the author did not really know where she wanted to go for several chapters.
The ending is more satisfactory, but the novel did not quite live up to the great expectations I had to Bolton after her fascinating debut, Sacrifice.
As far as I remember, I bought this book myself.