Monday, June 25, 2012
book review: The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas
What holds most crime books together is the personality of the detective leading the hunt for the killer. Think Morse, Holmes or Maigret and you get the picture.
Here you are introduced to the eccentric and distracted jean-Baptiste Adamsberg who seems to ignore most of the usual conventions of detective work strolling around and in a Colombo type way getting under the skin of those he feels are involved in the crime.
The crime in question here takes time to build with objects found in Paris in the middle of a chalk circle. As the circles become something of a cause celebre it goes from being something strange to something much more sinister once a woman is found in a circle with her throat cut.
From that point on the tension mounts as the police look to crack the case. But at the heart of it causing a fair amount of frustration is the gentle Adamsberg who takes his time before fingering the culprit based on a series of observations and a wonderful insight into human character and motivation.
The real measure of if a thriller with a recurring character has grabbed you is if you would answer in the positive to the opportunity to reading more. In this case I would although crime is a genre that you tend to dip in and out of and sometimes you want the detective in charge to feel some of the tension.
In many ways what makes this more of a rounded book is not just the style, the characters but the distinctive French voices coming through. Translated by Sian Reynolds from the French there are mentions of regional attributes that Adamsberg brings that add to his profile.
Of course Paris itself also plays a role here providing a background of rain washed cobbled streets to the circles and the murder.
A good read and the name Adamsberg may well appear again on this blog.
Posted by Simon Quicke at 12:07 pm