Fred Vargas

This Night’s Foul Work

""Vargas demonstrates how as a genre, crime fiction can produce works that stand alongside the best that modern fiction is producing." "


Commissaire Adamsberg is professionally and personally preoccupied. Leading the investigation into the murder of two young men, he is convinced that their deaths are not drug related and is refusing to hand over the corpses to the narcotics department. He is aided in his hunch by pathologist, Ariane Lagarde, who shares his belief that the corpses are the results of more sinister forces. However, he and Ariane disagreed over an important case twenty-three years earlier and neither is sure how they can rely on the instincts of the other.

Personally, Adamsberg is also paying for the years of neglect of his musician lover Camille. Although now the mother of his child, a situation which until recently he was blissfully, and typically unaware, Camille has now drawn a line under their relationship. The handsome new police recruit that has been charged to guard Camille is causing Adamsberg some disquiet, not least because he bears a long-held grudge against Adamsberg for a childhood misdemeanour.

These elements of Adamsberg's life combine to create the chaos within which he thrives and propel him towards the conclusion of the case.

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In her previous novels Fred Vargas has demonstrated her skill in writing highly individual and engrossing detective stories. In this book, however, Vargas demonstrates how as a genre, crime fiction can produce works that stand alongside the best that modern fiction is producing. On one hand, the book is a strong murder story. The story takes Adamsberg geographically from Paris to Normandy and, like other Vargas books, the plot is deceptively complicated. As in her previous novel, Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands, Vargas imbues in her story a sense of her surroundings. From the men gathered in the local village bar to the dispirited priest being hidden away from his community, Vargas draws the reader into this little Norman community. But the book is much more than a detective story. Some of the best passages deal with Adamsberg's gradual acceptance of the end of his relationship and these sections are beautifully written. With the introduction of the new police recruit, Vargas also explores the fragility of childhood memories and how they can influence the adult that we become. This a complex and beautifully written book and credit must also go to the translator for maintaining all the subtleties of the writing. Fans of Vargas will also be pleased to see the reappearance of one of the protagonists of her stand-alone book The Three Evangelists. If I read a better book this year, I will be surprised.

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