Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Fig Eater

The Fig Eater
by Jody Shields

Turn of the century Vienna, Austria, is the setting for this psychological mystery, "a city of horse-drawn carriages, masked balls, and gaslit cafes." ... that ... "hovers on the threshold between darkness and light, superstition and science." The murder of the young woman, Dora, in one of the city's main parks, the Volksgarten, introduces us to the Inspector (we never learn his first or last name). He is a devotee of the rationalist theory of criminology, which reduces the crime to a scientific puzzle. Any crime is simply a set of facts and to solve the crime you must organize these facts and then determine the error in the situation. The murder victim, Dora, is from a middle-class family and her murder is one that will test the Inspector's theories on crime to the limit. The Inspector's wife, Erszebet, is a "Hungarian steeped in intuition and the lore of Gypsy mysticism." She learns of the murder from her hsuband and begins an investigation of her own. Her husband is unaware of Erszebet's detecting activities and he would certainly have disagreed with her investigative methods, if he had known. Using intuition and Gypsy folklore, she focuses on the psychological and human behavioral aspects of the case. "Erszebet began her study of the murder. To understand the puzzle of how her life led to her death. To know her. When she first heard the girl had died in the park, there was something -- a needle prick of menace, a cruel loneliness -- that was familiar. It felt true as a memory." This mystery contracts many things, the different methods used to solve a crime, the cosmopolitan city of Vienna and the seedy side of this same city, the lifestyle of the middleclass families and the lifestyle of the servants who work in those family homes. And the thin layer of civility, respectability, and propriety in everyday society that barely covers the underbelly of perversity, cruelty and depravity. -- recommended by Evelyn D. - Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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