THE BURNING OF EVELYN FOSTER by Jonathan Goodman

THE BURNING OF EVELYN FOSTER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The never-fully-explained 1931 death of Evelyn Foster offers far less real substance for a true-crime investigator than did The Killing of Julia Wallace, but Goodman compensates for the absence of complex dues, stories, and timetables by doing wonders with the characters and the atmospheric scene-setting. He makes a moodily vivid, peopled place of Otterburn, the tiny North-of-England town where Evelyn Foster, a young, prosperous, fairly pretty car-for-hire driver, was found hideously burned on the road to Newcastle. Evelyn lived for hours, long enough to describe how she was molested, doused with petrol, and set ablaze by her passenger, a man in a bowler hat. But the local police, relentlessly lambasted by Goodman as incompetent and pigheaded (""incredible--and, yes, disgraceful""), were convinced that Evelyn had burned herself (either suicide or a car insurance scam gone wrong), and they tried, unsuccessfully, to elicit that verdict from the inquest jury. Goodman has come to believe Evelyn's story and organizes the evidence in her favor with acumen, but as for whodunit, there's only a rather wild maybe tagged on at the end. A thin subject perhaps more suited to a long article than a short book, but Goodman shapes and colors it (though crippled by the bewildering absence of photos) and confirms his toprank status among today's true-crime chroniclers.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1978
Publisher: Scribners