Wednesday 1 November 2023

Death at Wolf's Nick by Diane Janes

When I was up in Berwick recently, Lindsay Allason-Jones kindly gave me a copy of Death at Wolf's Nick by Diane Janes. I've not seen Diane for ages, but we've been on panels together in the past, and she is one of those writers who has achieved success both with fiction and non-fiction. I've mentioned her several times on this blog, for instance in relation to her book about the Chevis murder case. This book is another of her in-depth true crime studies, and it deals with a case that remains unsolved to this day, that of Evelyn Foster.

I was already familiar with the case, because many years ago I read Julian Symons' discussion of the case in an essay in Beyond Reasonable Doubt, which is an interesting book, though one of his less well-known publications. Diane doesn't mention it in her book, so I'm unsure what she made of it, or whether she's aware of it. But she does deal at some length with a previous study of the case, by Jonathan Goodman, who was a noted criminologist. Suffice to say that she doesn't think much of his research.

The death of Evelyn Foster was strange, sad, and deeply disturbing. She was a youngish taxi driver based in Otterburn, Northumberland, a lovely place, but also a rather lonely part of the world on a wintry night. One night, she took a passenger in rather odd circumstances, and was later found, badly burned, as was her car. The story she told about what happened was not, however, believed by the police (who come in for a lot of criticism in this book).

Diane's research is impressive, with reams of important detail about timings and local geography. Her theory about what happened seems plausible, if not proven. It's an extraordinary case. I'd have liked to get a fuller understanding of Evelyn's personality, and those of one or two of the other key players in the story, and also what happened to them in later years, but perhaps Diane felt restricted by the material that was available and verifiable. An interesting book, well worth reading if you're keen on true crime.

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