Celebrate Awards Week with one more free book by Fred Vargas
Three celebrated crime novels by three much-honored authors have just had or are about to have their U.S. paperback releases. Over the next few days, you'll have a chance to see what the fuss is about, as Detectives Beyond Borders gives away one copy of each book to the first reader who can answer a skill-testing question.
First up, from Penguin, is This Night's Foul Work by Fred Vargas, which won Vargas the second of her two Duncan Lawrie International Dagger awards from the Crime Writers’ Association in the U.K. This fourth of Vargas' mysteries about the dreamy, abstracted but hard-working and brilliant Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg released in English may be, as one admiring reviewer commented, even quirkier than the earlier Adamsberg novels.
Like those books, it brings back Adamsberg's large cast of colleagues, including the large and devoted Violette Retancourt, and the wine-indulging right-hand man Adrien Danglard, as logical as Adamsberg is intuitive. Like those books as well, This Night's Foul Work offers an excursion through the physical and human geography of a region of France, this time Normandy. It also takes Adamsberg on an excursion through his own past. Here, though, that past takes the form not just of Adamsberg's old girlfriend Camille, but also of a brilliant pathologist with whom Adamsberg had once almost become romantically involved, and of a new police recruit from a village in the Pyrenees next to Adamsberg's own native village.
The barest outline of the story seems familiar: two men are found dead in Paris' Port de la Chapelle flea market. The drug squad wants the case, but Adamsberg insists that the murders are about more than drug dealing, and he refuses to surrender jurisdiction. Lest you believe this is a routine police procedural, though, note the ghost that inhabits Adamsberg's new house. The cat that is an expert tracker. The police officer who speaks in twelve-syllable Alexandrine verse. As is often the case with Vargas, you're apt to find yourself enjoying the odd stories and eccentric sub-plots, reading slowly, and being pleasantly reminded that, yes, there is also a mystery going on. There may be a bit more mystery than usual, actually, as Vargas slips in an extra bit or two of misdirection.
You can win a copy by being the first to correctly answer this two-part question (and if you have not won a Detectives Beyond Borders competition in the past three months): Fred Vargas often takes her characters out of Paris to a different region of France in each book. In one novel, however, she takes them out of the country altogether. To which country? And in which novel? Send your answers along with your name and postal address to detectivesbeyondborders(at)earthlink(dot)net.
In the meantime, here's a roundup of Vargas reviews from Euro Crime. And read my two-part interview with Vargas' translator, Sian Reynolds, whose name is right up there on those Daggers with Vargas'.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008
French crime fiction