The Fig Eater
by Jody Shields
Category: Fiction / Historical
311 pages; ISBN: 0316785261
Rating: 8/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
In 1910 Vienna, someone murders teenager Dora, a patient of Dr. Freud, in the Volksgarten. The Inspector takes charge of a case that seems void of clues. The medical examiner discovers one puzzling item that the Inspector decides might be worth tracing. Just before dying, the victim ate a fresh fig. What is remarkable is that this is not the season for fresh figs.
The Inspector tells his Hungarian wife Erszebet how frustrating the case is. Unlike the Inspector who uses rational thought to solve mysteries, Erszebet turns to her Gypsy background and secretly her spouse's notebooks to begin her own brand of inquiries into where the young woman went before being murdered.
THE FIG EATER is a well-written historical mystery that showcases the past much more than the investigative elements. The story line brings to life pre-World War I Vienna at a time when science and superstition still battle for supremacy. The who-done-it is cleverly designed, but mystery readers need to know that the police procedural and amateur sleuthing subplots slowly develop as it takes a back seat to the fabulous look at 1910 Vienna. In turn the early chapters describing the atmosphere and the time serving as background to the murder is near perfect writing, but when the case finally takes center stage the story line remains slow paced. Historical readers will relish Jody Shields methodical interesting novel while mystery fans will like the tale but ask for faster pacing.
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