Wednesday, July 6, 2011

This Night's Foul Work by Fred Vargas

This Night's Foul Work

I am enamoured of this mystery series by Fred Vargas. After reading the first in the Commissaire Adamsberg series, I promptly went out and picked another off the shelf, which happens to be Vol #7, the second-to-last of the volumes translated into English. (A new novel, An Uncertain Place, has been released in the U.S. in 2011). Since some of the events refer to earlier books in the series, one should probably read them in order, but the central mystery is easy enough to follow. This is such a spectacular addition to Vargas’ French mystery oeuvre, you will be going back to read the earlier books anyway.

A couple of street-smart local lads are found murdered, after they had apparently raided the graves of recently dead spinsters. The dark, almost medieval feel of the mystery is not lightened by another conflict: Adamsberg is being doggedly pursued by a lieutenant on his own force, whose habit of speaking in twelve-syllable alexandrines is put down to family influence. Everyone seems to think this is a perfectly reasonable explanation. --[Gallic shrug]-- Once again we are treated to detailed character sketches of all in Adamsberg’s police team. We learn that Adamsberg’s relationship with the woman of his dreams has developed into something rather more than mere longing, though he is not above looking with interest at other possible liaisons when they present themselves.

It is time to look closely at the author of the series whose pen name is Fred Vargas. The pseudonym conceals the fact that Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau is a woman, and is in fact a medievalist and archeologist. Fred is the diminutive of her first name, but Vargas derives from the film The Barefoot Contessa. She has a twin sister, Joëlle, a painter. Vargas has won awards for the last three of her novels, and her translator, Siân Reynolds, has been mentioned in the awards as well, reassuring us that we are getting all the humor and darkness that is contained in the French originals. This is truly a series to savor.

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