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The Fig Eaterby Jody Shields
Synopses & Reviews
Vienna, 1910 — Freud's Vienna, a city of horse-drawn carriages and masked balls, gaslit cafis and Biedermeier furniture — hovers on the threshold between darkness and light, superstition and science.
The murder of Dora, the haunted daughter of a respectable bourgeois family, is being investigated by the Inspector, newly schooled in rationalist criminology. Almost every aspect of the case remains hidden, untouchable. He recognizes uncertainty as part of solving the crime and knows that — what is unspoken remains most powerful. He is trying to find the "error in the situation" — that small link that will lead him to the truth. His wife, Erszebet, a Hungarian steeped in intuition and the lore of Gypsy mysticism, becomes obsessed with the murder and launches her own parallel, secret investigation. She is sure that the figs found in Dora s stomach are the clue to the identity of the murderer — for there are no fresh figs in Vienna at this time of the year. With the help of a young British governess, she unmasks an entirely other face of the crime, and of the society that would prefer it to be repressed forever.
In her brooding, atmospheric, and meticulously researched debut thriller, Jody Shields resurrects turn-of-the-century Vienna with luscious details about food, botany, and fashion, descriptions of perverse medical practices, and hints at sexual secrets. The Fig Eater is a great suspense puzzle in which each piece gathered challenges our perceptions and leads us to the novel's shocking climax.
"A sprinkling of Hungarian legend and Gypsy lore adds another layer of color to Shields's evocation of the era, while literary references...botanical information and the engaging details of Viennese life build a picture of a city in the throes of turbulent intellectual and social change." Publishers Weekly
"The Fig Eater, a first novel by Jody Shields, takes readers, with mesmerizing clarity, to Vienna in 1911...Through overlapping perspectives, Ms. Shields flashes dazzling stereopticon slides of a city floating between opposites: the fading 19th century and the bustling 20th, the analytical male point of view and the intuitive female, the scientific and the superstitious. Ms. Shields has a powerful gift for poetic and painterly imagery. Her startling scenes, rich in metaphor, linger long in memory." The Wall Street Journal
"Shield's prose is incredibly rich...filled with a wealth of detail...rarely loses sight if the plot and delivers a first novel that is stylish and compelling." Chicago Tribune
"Shields is an intelligent writer unafraid to take chances, and this is a promising debut." Booklist
"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." Library Journal
About the Author
Shields has written several screenplays and has a master's degree in art. Her prints are in various collections, including the Museum of Modern Art.
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