Chickenfeed is a very, very short crime novel, based on real events from the mid 1920’s, which the acclaimed Minette Walters has turned into a page turning tale of obsessive love.
Norman Thorne is an innocent, worldly unwise man, who neither smokes, drinks or has much in his life, except for the church and the Scout movement. Into his life comes the plain and unprepossessing Elsie Cameron, but they strike up an unusual friendship, which leads to a relationship, but in their minds it is a different type of relationship.
Norman is working on a farm, and starts to see Bessie, who he marries, but the besotted Elsie does not let him go so easily. After telling him she is pregnant, the book quickly leads to the horrifically true denouement. Elsie is dead, the cause is not known for certain, but Norman is found guilty of her murder, and is hung, even though there are grave doubts about his guilt.
The book is heavily based on what is believed to be a massive miscarriage of justice, for the real cause of Elsie’s death was never fully explained, whether or not it was a purposeful suicide, a cry for Norman’s attention, or the fault of third parties. The lack of any forensic evidence at the time, and a proper medical examination also pointed to a flawed court case.
At only 120 pages, the book packs a lot in, with short chapters, some of the narrative being told in letters, and believable characters. If you are a fine of the work of this fine writer, or are looking for a short, sharp read, Chickenfeed could be the work for you.
Chickenfeed by Minette Walters
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