The Fig Eater

Written by Jody Shields
Review by Trudi Jacobson

The Fig Eater is set in 1910 Vienna. The protagonist is a police officer who very much adheres to modern scientific methods in his investigation of the murder of a young woman. He is also very interested n the psychological study of crime, and places great faith in solving crimes through identifying the error in the situation.

He is married to a woman who is something of an enigma to the reader. She is Hungarian, and is very much influenced by Hungarian and Gypsy folklore and customs. His mystically-inclined wife becomes interested in the murder case, and decides to conduct her own investigation, without her husband’s knowledge. She rifles through his pockets and papers in the middle of the night, reading his notebook and examining any evidence he happens to bring home. At one point she actually impedes the real investigation. Her superstitions form a counterpoint to his scientific method, until he strangely starts slipping a bit into her mindset.

The book is very atmospheric—the reader gets a good sense of Vienna just after the turn of the century. One recurring situation set my mouth drooling—every few pages the wife meets her co-conspirator at a pastry shop/cafe and they invariably order a different variety of Viennese pastry along with their coffee!