lundi 21 juillet 2008

I’d long been curious about the Fred Vargas books. The story lines of her books always seemed interesting and I had seen on more than one occasion people absorbed in her stories when I was in the metro. One of them had even been turned in to a movie. So when we got her books back in stock, it seemed the fitting occasion to pick up one of them and plunge into her universe.
And what a universe it turned out to be. Fortunately I decided to start with one of the earlier novels starring, if I may use that term, Police Commisaire Jean Baptiste Adamsberg, who at the start of “Have Mercy on Us All” has just been appointed head of a newly formed murder unit. Adamsberg possesses an almost uncanny knack for finding the bad guys, hence the appointment. But we meet Adamsberg just after we meet Joss Le Guern, a modern day town crier who has set up a rather thriving business barking out the news three times a day in a square just of Edgar Quinet. As towncrier he receives a number of odd messages but none as odd as some messages which start hinting at the return of the dreaded Plague. Yes, the plague which as we all know has been eradicated. And the plot thickens when victims start turning up showing the deadly signs. It was at this point that I realized I’ve entered into a completely different murder mystery story altogether.
It is an intriguing and well written story that surprises you till almost the last page. Through out all the inventive twists and turns, Vargas manages to keep a tight hold of the story so that there is a seamless narrative and anything loopy or out of the ordinary becomes possible in the world she creates. There is a impressive amount of historical data in the story which can only come about from much research. It turns out the Fred Vargas, whose real name is Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau is a historian and archaeologist, hence the wealth of details in her story. Another enjoyable aspect in her book is the engaging humor with which it is written. While it is true that this crime fiction, it is written with a lighter hand than most and it is peppered with genuinely humorous situations. Have Mercy on Us All is certainly a great introduction to Fred Vargas’ universe and now I know why people are so taken in by it. Definitely a worthy addition to my shelves.

Other Fred Vargas books in stock at RWB include Seeking Whom He May Devour (2004), The Three Evangelists (2005), Wash This Blood Clean from My Hands (2007), This Night’s Foul Work (2008) and something to look forward to in 2009 is The Chalk Circle Man.

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