‘Chickenfeed’ is a ‘quick reads’ short story that Minette Walters has based on a true crime that occurred in the 1920s.
Elsie Cameron has always had difficulty forming relationships – particularly with the opposite sex. She is moody, paranoid and extremely demanding. Now, after the great war, there is a shortage of young men and her greatest fear is being left ‘on the shelf’.
Elsie sets her sights on Norman Thorne. A few years her junior, he is probably too young to know any better. The relationship starts out OK, but Elsie is soon pushing Norman to marry her. When Norman loses his job and moves to the Sussex countryside to start a chicken farm, his family is relieved, but Elsie soon follows him.
The relationship deteriorates over time, but Norman can’t get rid of Elsie. She threatens to kill herself when he tries to end the relationship. Eventually Elsie claims to be pregnant (even though they never had sex) to get Norman to marry her.
Her body is found buried on the chicken farm and Norman Thorne is the obvious suspect for her murder.
This was a brilliantly told story. It was very quick to read, but had a much larger impact than you would expect for its size. Norman was presented as a likeable person, but his dithering caused many of his problems. Elsie was presented as completely unlikeable, but there were obvious metal health issues and these days she could probably receive treatment to allow her to function a bit better.
The solution was left up in the air – did Norman murder Elsie? Or did Elsie kill herself. You’ll need to read the story yourself and make your own decisions.
Book Published 2006