7 February 2009

Review: THE CHALK CIRCLE MAN, Fred Vargas

Random House, 2009, ISBN 978-1-843-43272-2, 246 pages
Australian release date 2 Feb 2009
Translated from the French by Sian Reynolds

Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg has just been appointed Commissaire of the police headquarters in the 5th Arrondissement of Paris. His reputation as a solver of crimes has preceded him, but eleven days after his arrival, his new team does not quite know what to make of him. For Adamsberg does not solve crimes by logic. He is also an outsider from the Pyrenees.

Adamsberg is the first to admit that he is not a thinker, that he works mainly by instinct and hunches. He tells Adrien Danglard, his second in command and a person who believes in logic, that he himself is a slow inarticulate man who can sense guilt in a suspect. Most of all Adamsberg believes people commit murder because underneath they enjoy inflicting pain: cruelty oozes from them.

The strange overnight appearance of blue chalk circles on the pavements of Paris is regarded by most, including the newspapers, as a harmless prank. The circles generally contain some strange object, but it is difficult to see any connections. However Adamsberg asks Danglard to see that photographic records are made of each, predicting that the thing in the middle of the circles will get bigger, and saying that the circles ooze cruelty. Eventually he is right and the body of a young woman, her throat cut, is discovered inside one of the circles. Adamsberg believes there will be more, but he is not sure whether there are two people or just one responsible for both the chalk circles and the murder.

Here at last is the first of Vargas' Adamsberg series, for they have been translated into English out of order. THE CHALK CIRCLE provides the beginning of some of the threads that run through subsequent novels: Adamsberg's unusual methods of solving crimes, his love for Camille, and his relationship with Danglard.

My rating: 4.5

SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR was a finalist for a Dagger Award in 2005. Vargas went on to win the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger twice with THE THREE EVANGELISTS (2006) and WASH THIS BLOOD CLEAN FROM MY HAND (2007). In 2008 THE NIGHT'S FOUL WORK was shortlisted for the International Dagger.

My other Vargas reviews
List of titles from Euro Crime- the second date is that of an English translation:
The Chalk Circle Man ( L'Homme aux Cercles Bleus 1996)20091
Seeking Whom He May Devour (L'homme a L'envers 1999)20042
Have Mercy on Us All (Paris Vite et Reviens Tard 2001)20033
Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand (Sous les Vents de Neptune 2004)20075
This Night's Foul Work ( Dans les Bois √Čternels 2006)20086

Review at the Independent


Thoughts of Joy said...

This is on my TBR list. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I've read all of Vargas that has been translated into English, and with with this book, I think I finally started to figure out what she was up to.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"


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