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The Fig Eater by Jody Shields

The Fig Eater

by Jody Shields

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Frustrating book with most of the characters (the Inspector, his wife Elzabeth, her TG friend Wally, and his trainee) at cross purposes. Interesting descriptions of Vienna, and Elzabeth's Hungarian/gypsy background, but little else to recommend it. Story focuses on finding out who killed a young woman. ( )
  Pmaurer | Oct 27, 2015 |
I was disappointed in the ending, but overall, liked the way it got there. Good look at historical Vienna and the history of criminal investigations. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 16, 2013 |
Meh. A gift from my aunt-in-law. Dunno how she selected it. 1910 Vienna could be interesting; 1900 Vienna was the setting of one of my favorite books from 2010, Selden Edwards's The Little Book. This 1910 Vienna was bland, except for the pastry. Could have used more Hungary. ( )
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
I'm pretty sure I didn't like this book. The end was just darn strange, and I wasn't fond of how the characters evolved during the story. I still have no idea what the fig had to do with anything, why the inspector's wife was so obsessive about the case, where Wally came from, or why Dora's father was so secretive about everything. The dangling threads at the end of this story were just distracting and unnecessary. ( )
  Krumbs | Mar 31, 2013 |
bad writing, horrible ending ( )
1 vote bothhands | Sep 16, 2012 |
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But an Investigating Officer must never and under no circumstances allow himself to follow the paths along which he is pushed, be is designedly or accidentally, by the various witnesses. Apart from the fact that the reconstitution of the crime for oneself is the only effective method, it is the only interesting one, the only one that stimulates the inquirer and keeps him awake at his work.

--Hans Gross, System der Kriminalistik, 1904
For Kathleen Bishop

Richard Jay Kohn

John Owen Ward
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He stands up next to the girl's body.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316785261, Paperback)

Penzler Pick, May 2000: It is 1910 Vienna, and a woman's body has been found in the Volksgarten. She is Dora--Freud's famous patient. The Inspector (whose name we never learn) is painstakingly trying to put together the circumstances of her death with the help of the principles outlined in the 1901 book System der Kriminalistik, the first tome to attempt a psychological approach to understanding crime. The Inspector's wife, Erszébet, meanwhile, is drawn to this murder for reasons she doesn't understand and decides to investigate using her own methodology, derived from the Gypsy folklore she grew up with in Hungary.

What separates The Fig Eater from ordinary mystery fiction is the look it offers at detective work in the early 20th century, as the methods used moved from folklore and ignorance to the scientific. Photography of the era often resulted in the loss of fingers. Forensic methods so familiar to us now were unheard of, and the use of psychological profiling to capture killers was a young science unknown by most of the general populace.

Shields introduces the reader to Dora's family and acquaintances, giving depth to the characters only briefly discussed in Freud's case study of Dora. She takes liberties with the historical record (this is, after all, a novel) but creates a plausible scenario of what might have happened while depicting a brooding turn-of-the-century Vienna replete with gorgeous details of food, fashion, botany, and manners. The film rights have been optioned by Miramax, and if the author had her way, she says, it would star Liam Neeson and Judi Dench. --Otto Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:44 -0400)

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Early twentieth-century Vienna forms the backdrop for a historical mystery as a police inspector investigates the death of a beautiful young girl, found brutally murdered in the Volksgarten park, while his Hungarian wife and a teenage English governess pursue their own probe into the case… (more)

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