Books »The Fig Eater

by Jody Shields (2000)

The Fig Eater, set in Vienna in early 1900’s, is less about the hideous crime at its center and more about creating a moody atmosphere, revealing the subtle relationships between friends and husband and wife while delving into the detective practices as well as the Gypsy superstitions of the time.

The historic detective novel is a genre made most famous by the Alienist and in the Fig Eater it works well as a framework for quite a brooding portrait of a time and place. The crime it follows is the murder of Dora, a victim based on a famous patient of Dr. Freud, who had unusual relationships with the older men in her life.

Both the unnamed Investigator and his Hungarian wife, Erzibet finds themselves desperate to unlock the mysteries of the girl’s death. He through the latest in criminalist technology and a devotion to the Enzyclopddie der Kriminalistik, the first psychological approach to crime while Erzibet follows and discovers clues through Gypsy rituals and intuitions.

In the right hands, this could be a beautiful and haunting film that in some ways could be even more effective than the book which, while nicely written and interesting, feels a tad distant.

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Posted on April 4, 2010

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