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The fig eater : a novel
Jody Shields
Adult Fiction SHIELDS

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Fashion writer Shields (All That Glitters; A Stylish History) achieves atmospheric suspense in her compelling first novel, set in 1910 in Freud's Vienna. It opens on the discovery of the grisly murder of a young woman, Dora (whose name recalls Freud's famous patient), found strangled in a disreputable part of town. Two separate investigations are launched, only one official. The unnamed Inspector, with his assistant, Franz, begins with the physical evidence at the scene, and later watches for telltale signals from his initial crop of suspects: Dora's mother and father, her lover and his wife. He interprets their reactions by means of his growing familiarity with psychoanalysis, a pioneering work of which is excerpted throughout the novel. Meanwhile, his wife, Ersz‚bet, an amateur painter and Hungarian mystic, begins her own clandestine inquiries with the help of a young English governess, Wally. Their first substantial piece of evidence is the undigested fig removed from Dora's stomach. They become convinced that this is the key to solving the case, as figs cannot grow in Vienna's cold winters and are apparently not imported fresh from warmer climes. Ersz‚bet also believes that Gypsy spells and superstitions might divine knowledge about the crime, while the Inspector searches more or less by the book. These two very different styles of inquiry lead to discoveries that keep the competing sleuths neck-and-neck until the final pages. Though the plot is intricate and the mystery promising, Shields's language can be uneven. Often lushly descriptive, at times the prose is restrained to the point of detachment, somewhat distancing the reader from the characters. A sprinkling of Hungarian legend and Gypsy lore adds another layer of color to Shields's evocation of the era, while literary references, contemporary art, medical theories, occult practices, botanical information and the engaging details of Viennese life build a picture of a city in the throes of turbulent intellectual and social change. 5-city author tour; U.K. rights sold to Doubleday/Black Swan; film rights sold to Miramax. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In 1910 Vienna, a police inspector and his Hungarian wife pursue independent investigations of the mysterious murder of a young woman, whose "last meal" consisted of a single fig. Using scientific and forensic techniques actually detailed from a period handbook of criminology, the inspector mines clues from all available sources. Unbeknownst to him, his wife, Erszebet, of gypsy origins, brings to bear otherworldly techniques to achieve the same end. Along the way, Shields, a former editor and author of fashion books (All That Glitters; Hats: A Stylish History and Collector's Guide) demonstrates substantial talent in the literary mystery milieu. While delivering a unique and engrossing story, Shields imparts a wealth of Eastern European gypsy folklore as well as seductive period detail on photography, arcane medical procedures, and prevailing sexual psychology. This is a masterpiece for all suspense collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/99.]--Margaret A. Smith, Grace A. Dow Memorial Lib., Midland, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters "Inspector"
Schooled in rationalist criminology.
Police inspector

The Inspector's wife.

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