Wednesday, March 24, 2010

*Fox Evil, by Minette Walters

Fox Evil is the ninth book by this author, and it won the CWA Gold Dagger award in 2003.

At the root of this mystery is the question of who killed Ailsa Lockyer-Fox. Set in the small village of Shenstead in Dorset, Fox Evil attempts to sort it all out.  Ailsa was found by her husband James outside their home in the freezing cold weather, wearing only a nightgown. Obviously, she hadn't intended on staying outside for any length of time. To add to the mystery, bloodstains were also found, but Ailsa had no visible wounds which would have caused them. To further whet the reader's appetite for clues, the door going back into the house was locked, and her husband James, seemingly slept on while the murder and mayhem were occurring. The coroner's report cleared James of any wrongdoing. So who killed Ailsa?

Fox Evil is rather cluttered, suffering from too much going on all at the same time. First, James gets his solicitor to track down his long-lost and grown-up granddaughter, Lizzie's daughter from a fling she had some time back, having been adopted when she was a baby. Then there's a matter of a vicious campaign of anonymous callers, accusing James of horrible things. Not to mention the band of travellers who decide to make a certain stretch of woodland their home and their leader, who goes by the name of Fox.  Add into that a mix of neighbors with their own petty problems,  and pretty soon you need a scorecard to keep track of it all.

My preference in mystery novels is for a book in which there are enough suspects who all have really good motives to kill someone, a few really good red herrings that might lead me down the wrong path, and a wowser of a revelation at the end. And although I generally like Minette Walters' writing (The Ice House, The Scold's Bridle and The Breaker  were absolute gems), there was just way too much happening here.  Of course, this book got many 5-star reviews, so it might just be me. I'd recommend it to people who have already read books by this author, but it's definitely not one of my personal favorites.

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