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When elderly Ailsa Lockyer-Fox is found dead in her garden, dressed only in night clothes and with blood stains on the ground near her body, the finger of suspicion points at her wealthy, landowning husband, Colonel James Lockyer-Fox. A coroner's inquest gives a verdict of 'natural causes' but the gossip surrounding him refuses to go away. Why? Because he's guilty? Or because resentful women in the isolated Dorset village where he lives rule the roost? Shenstead is a place of too few people and too many secrets. Why have James and Ailsa cut their children out of their wills? What happened in the past to create such animosity within the family? And why is James so desperate to find his illegitimate grandchild? Friendless and alone, his reclusive behaviour begins to alarm his London-based solicitor, Mark Ankerton, whose concern deepens when he discovers that James has become the victim of a relentless campaign which accuses him of far worse than the death of his wife. Allegations which he refuses to challenge ...Why? Because they're a motive for murder?
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UK Kirkus review
There probably isn't anyone writing today who can peep through the crack in the curtains of the French windows and observe the British middle classes at their most malicious as well as Minette Walters. In Fox Evil she takes a microscope to the foibles and follies of the inhabitants of an idyllic Dorset hamlet invaded, over the Christmas holiday, by a suspiciously well-informed and well-organized group of 'travellers' who seem determined to stay put. There is more than simply squatters' rights at stake here, though, as the travellers' leader 'Fox', has his own, lethal, agenda - as do some of the seemingly respectable ladies of the hamlet whose activities might stop at murder, but not very far short. Pitted against them is a lonely old man alienated from his children but reconciled with a granddaughter lost to adoption years before and a sympathetic solicitor. In different ways, each of the three heroes has to find their own brand of courage as what starts as a nuisance becomes a threat and escalates into violent confrontation. Minette Walters is a writer never afraid to try something new. Her last book was set entirely during an inner-city riot on a sink estate and dealt with public reaction to paedophilia. Fox Evil is set in sleepy Dorset and proves that malice is anything but asleep behind the picture-postcard scenery. For someone who has yet to write a bad book, it is difficult to say if this is her best, but in terms of plot, pace, social observation and solid characterization, it certainly stands head and shoulders above most of the traditionally British crime fiction on offer today. Mike Ripley is crime critic of the Birmingham Post. His latest novel is Angel Underground (Constable, #16.99) (Kirkus UK)
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