Emotionally and physically scarred from childhood, Clara Benning keeps busy as the primary veterinary surgeon at the Little Order of St. Francis clinic in a tiny English village. Reclusive by nature, Clara had little interaction with her neighbors but that changes when a distraught mother calls in a panic because there is a snake in her daughter’s cot. Shortly after Clara saved the baby girl from a poisonous adder, she learns another neighbor’s recent death was due to a massive amount of adder venom and discovers a deadly Australian taipan in yet another village house.
Clara’s reclusive life comes to an abrupt end in this unusual thriller with plenty of slither involving a charismatic preacher, an abandoned house, identity theft and a nice spark of romance. While the plot becomes a bit too snarled to be credible and the nature of Clara’s disfigurement is never revealed, this remains a solid read with enough herpetology to creep out the squeamish.