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Young Norman Thorne finds himself in an untenable situation...but does he resort to murder to escape Elsie Cameron's clutches?

As part of World Book Day 2006, Minette took part in the Quick Reads initiative, designed to encourage developing readers and adult learners as they explore the exciting world of books.

Chickenfeed, Minette's contribution to the initiative, is a crackling tale based on the true story of the 'chicken farm murder' that took place in Blackness Road, Crowborough, East Sussex in December, 1924.

"It was a challenge to write because I constantly had to think whether certain words or ideas, particularly 'inside head' thoughts, were really necessary," Minette explained in a recent article in The Times. "But I enjoyed it and I hope the books will be widely read by everyone, so no one need feel embarrassed about being seen to be reading one."

Norman Thorne and Elsie CameronAlthough Norman Thorne never confessed to killing his girlfriend Elsie, he was tried and hanged for the crime. Minette's fictionalised account of their relationship is told from the points of view of both Elsie and Norman, from the time of their first meeting at chapel when Norman is 18 and Elsie is 22, until the eve of Norman’s trial for her murder just over four years later.

Norman Thorne on his chicken farmIn the real-life case, an exchange of letters between the lovers, in which Elsie told Norman that she was pregnant, formed part of the evidence that suggested a motive for murder. The author builds this brief exchange into a two-year correspondence between Elsie in London and Norman in Sussex, where he has bought a poultry farm and is trying to establish himself as a chicken farmer.

The lovers gradually grow apart. Elsie refuses to accept the changes and creates a fantasy to replace the reality of their dwindling relationship, while Norman has met someone else but finds it hard to tell Elsie that he no longer wants to marry her.

Through the narration and the letters, readers come to know Elsie and Norman quite well and, at the end of the story, are encouraged to reach their own verdict about the case.

(Pictures showing Norman Thorne with Elsie Cameron and on his chicken farm are courtesy of MurderFile.net.)



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