Wednesday, March 21, 2018

THE FIG EATER by Jody Shields

I really enjoyed most of this murder mystery that takes place in 1910 Vienna.  It’s full of gypsy lore and superstitions, giving it a sinister flavor that just enhances the rather detached tone of the novel.  However, the ending is extremely abrupt and unsatisfying with loose ends galore.  The book opens with a young woman named Dora having been murdered, with pieces of an undigested fig having been found in her stomach.  A man known simply as the Inspector is in charge of investigating the crime, but his wife Erszébet decides to undertake her own parallel investigation on the side.  She even locates a key witness before her husband does but never tells him where to find this witness.  Erszébet is fascinated by the fig and determines exactly what type of fig it is, simply from its appearance.  All I can say to this is Dora apparently didn’t chew up her food very well before being murdered.  There are lots of other clues and leads for both the Inspector and his wife to follow up on, but none of these enigmas are resolved at the end of the novel.  I don’t need for everything to be tidied up at the end, but in this case I’m not sure if these various pieces of evidence are red herrings or teasers or if the author just didn’t know what to do with them.  Another possibility is that the reader is supposed to draw some conclusions that certainly were not obvious to me.  That said, sometimes the journey is more worthwhile than the destination, and this novel has a unique aura that makes it a journey worth taking.

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