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Fox Evil (Walters, Minette) Hardcover – May 12, 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: Walters, Minette
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (May 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399150544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399150548
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,408,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Walters (The Ice House; The Sculptress; Acid Row) is considered by many to be the preeminent crime novelist writing in England today. This psychological thriller, her ninth novel, should satisfy both aficionados of the traditional English cozy and readers who prefer mysteries with a grimmer edge. Walters's dark drama unfolds in the tiny Dorset village of Shenstead, where Col. James Lockyer-Fox's wife, Ailsa, dressed only in flimsy nightclothes and boots, has been found dead on the terrace of Shenstead Manor. A coroner's jury declares James not guilty, but a telephone harassment campaign by unknown persons accuses him not only of the murder but other heinous crimes as well. This unrelenting pressure drives the colonel into a deep and debilitating depression. London solicitor Mark Ankerton steps in to prove his friend James innocent and to clear up the question of just what Ailsa was doing locked out of the house on a freezing night in her underwear and Wellies. His investigation leads him to a nearby group of Travelers-modern-day gypsies who roam the countryside in converted buses-who are squatting on unclaimed land, attempting to seize the property. The Travelers are led by the monstrously evil Fox, whose own agenda is much more complicated than a simple desire for free real estate. Award winner Walters rounds out her novel with several subplots, including confrontations between fox hunters and hunt saboteurs and other small scandals of rural life, all tied in the end to the resolution of the story. The writer's many fans will thoroughly enjoy this hefty, stand-alone mystery, but psychological thriller readers who are more interested in thrills than psychology may find the going a bit too slow and the eventual denouement too complicated by half.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The title of Walters' latest fright fest comes from a peculiarly virulent kind of skin disorder, in which hair falls out in mangy clumps. It also serves as the delightful nickname of one of Walters' main characters in this compulsive page-turner, which puts a deranged spin on the conventional village cozy. The matriarch of a wealthy family is found dead in the garden, bloodstains near her night-gowned form. The chief suspect is her husband, Colonel James Lockyer Fox; suspicion against him grows even after he has been officially cleared by the coroner. From this traditional start, Walters' narrative takes detours: into the worlds of fox-hunting saboteurs and down-and-outers living in a caravan park just outside the village. She also throws in the colonel's attempts to reconcile with his illegitimate granddaughter. All this, against the backdrop of growing community hostility toward the colonel, makes for a novel that becomes increasingly intriguing as the reader realizes how the plotlines intersect. Walters, who has won both the American Edgar and the British Gold Dagger Award, is expert at ratcheting up suspense while she portrays credibly confused and terrified characters meeting their fates. Great psychological acuity in a hair-raising suspense story. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By woodstock_ap on August 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The plot summary on the jacket cover describes the death of an elderly woman, found outdoors wearing only her nightgown, with blood on the ground nearby. I was expecting to read an investigation into the circumstances of her death. But, since Minette Walters is the author, I should not have been surprised to find much, much more going on here, and the book jacket blurb doesn't even come close to summing this one up.
Set in a small rural community in the southwest of England, with an uneasy mix of residents. Farmers and wealthy landowners who have lived in the area for several generations now have neighbors who moved out from Britain's larger cities, investing retirement funds in country houses, and imagining themselves the new lords and ladies of the manor.
New arrivals on the scene are a group of "travelers" who live in camper type vehicles, moving from place to place. Their self appointed leader has discovered a small plot of land with an uncertain ownership history, and has convinced the group that if they manage to inhabit the plot long enough, they can claim ownership.
The stage is now set for what follows. The plots in Walters' books are always hard to categorize. This is not precisely a murder mystery, although we eventually do learn the true circumstances of the woman's death, and it wasn't pretty. "Fox Evil" is a portrait of sadistic manipulation and psychological torture. The itinerant leader together with residents of the community embark on a campaign to badger the elderly widower unmercifully with an eye to obtaining all his wealth. His two estranged adult children may or may not be part of what is going on.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By amrdmr on October 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Previous reviews have covered the plot outline quite thoroughly, so no need for me to do that. I just wanted to voice my opinion that I totally enjoyed this book, aside from the fact that I started it as bedtime reading and ended up staying up to 3AM to finish it. I haven't said that about a mystery in quite a while. Granted, fans of Walters' earlier books may be disappointed by the lighter tone she uses in "Fox Evil", but I was completely satisfied with the characters interactions, the plot, the ending, the quality of the writing. Those who love the "English village" style of mysteries and shun the gruesome will find this a delightfully fresh Miss Marples (not that I don't enjoy her in the right mood). Only warning is references to animal cruelty, but Walters did not beat you over the head with it and for those who avoid brutality in mysteries, those passages are easy to gloss over. I was left at the end wondering how the cast of protagonists got on (though there were plenty of hints). I can't remember how long it has been since I cared enough about one character, let alone an ensemble, to wonder about their futures. I even wondered about what happens to some of the "bad" chacters. "Fox Evil" is not "The Sculptress" or "The Scold's Bridle", but I bet there are many who would enjoy it.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Minette Walters just keeps getting better and better! I highly recommend this book to both Walters fans, and those new to her work.
No need to describe the plot of this book - its been so admirably done already. Unlike so many authors, her novels are stand alone rather than series book. And also unlike so many authors, as her popularity grows she just doesn't repeat her plots, nor seem to be selling out or "phoning it in". Yes, the ending is a tad trite - but only just a tad, and thank heavens since the rest of the book is anything but. More of a psychological roller coaster.
Excellent stuff, and hopefully there'll be more of it very soon.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Baking Enthusiast VINE VOICE on April 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
Col. James Lockyer-Fox's wife, Ailsa, died under mysterious circumstances-locked out in the cold, clad in a nightgown and boots. Though James is absolved of responsibility for her death, two middle-age harpies and a mysterious male embark on a campaign of nuisance calls, accusing James not only of murdering his wife, but of other despicable acts as well. Her death and the constant barrage of nasty calls throw the elderly James into a deep depression.

Upon his request, his solicitor, Mark Ankerton successfully tracks down James' granddaughter, Nancy Smith. Nancy was adopted at birth to conceal the fact that she's the illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth, James' self-destructive daughter. Saddled with Elizabeth's alcoholism and nymphomania, son Leo's gambling debts, and a growing suspicion that either (or both) is behind the harassment campaign, James is on the verge of mental collapse. It is up to Mark and Nancy to aid James.

Meanwhile, a convoy of New Age travelers have insinuated themselves in the village, squatting on land adjacent to James' Shenstead Manor. Under the guise of "adverse possession" (ownership of undeeded land simply by use of it), Fox Evil, their self-proclaimed leader, coerces the travelers to guard their patch while he stalks the manor unbeknownst to them. Who is this Fox Evil? What were the true circumstances behind Ailsa's death? Is he connected to her death?

Regarded as one of Ms. Walters' grimmer novels, Fox Evil is a labyrinth of menace and mayhem that could try a reader's patience and comprehension. It did mine.
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