The Burnt Fox
ISBN: 9781780363035, Peach Publishing, an e-book by Neil Grimmett.
Plot/Characters: Eliot and Donna with young son Bradley are living in a row house in the now somewhat deteriorated council estates. He is a former bass player in a local band and now a frustrated writer. She is a studying nursing, part time employed in the profession and a stanch believer in ‘women’s lib’. Their marriage is ‘shaky’ and when he finds an ad for employment on the estate of Philip and Clarissa Compton, they decide to go for an interview. They are accepted, provided with a house, salary and assigned their duties. He is a general handyman and servant doing menial jobs as well as caring for the horses and functioning as gamekeeper for the owner’s hunts. The mansion’s grounds here at Cloothill are extensive including a large farm overseen by Tobias, a rather crude person who can be charming to women and Donna finds most attractive. The Compton’s au pair, Rebecca, a young woman from Prague, is attracted to Eliot, as well as others, and he is to her. A number of lesser characters contribute to the action in varying degrees as the story progresses through the mundane activities as well as somewhat interesting and unusual activities such as dehorning, weighing and inoculating cattle, a fox hunt and pheasant gunning occasion. The finale is what could be expected but may be unfulfilling to some.
Discussion: A synopsis states this is: “Unflinching and sexually charged, The Burnt Fox is a startling depiction of the unsavory side of life in rural England.” This no doubt is true. However, underlying this fact is the author’s attempt to provide a tale wherein an overlying dark cloud is generated by an intangible feeling of the presence of an all-encompassing malignancy arising from past evil, and affecting all interpersonal activity within its realm. The attempt has been interesting and in part successful, but in this reviewer’s opinion, would benefit from a more thorough development of the characters, or perhaps even change some of them to an extent. As provided, they are ‘making excuses’ in assignment of blame for their actions and ultimate decisions. I suggest that individuals read this book, examine it from this aspect, and decide for themselves – are the protagonists ‘making excuses’ or are they really being affected by an ‘evil presence’?
Conclusion: A thought-provoking tale by an accomplished author that really ‘invites’ readers’ analysis. It may have lesser appeal for other than a British audience because of a need for the reader’s understanding/acceptance of the class system that to some extent still exists within this country.
3* 4* Tale ‘asking for’ reader analysis; 3* caveat – probably of greater interest to British readers