A French bestseller wonders whether modern Paris is in for another round of the plague.
Commissaire Adamsburg, a quirky officer who thinks outside the box, gets a hint of looming trouble when he receives complaints about large reversed number fours painted on doors all over Paris. Joss Le Guern, a modern town crier, begins reading some very strange messages in his thrice daily reports—messages that pique the curiosity of ex-schoolteacher Decambrais, who tracks down the sources to ancient treatises on the plague. Shortly after these three get together, strangled, naked bodies covered with charcoal and flea bites begin to appear. Their disturbing suggestion of the Black Death, however misleading, is a hint that perhaps more than one person is involved, since the letters to Le Guern indicate an educated person with deep knowledge of the plague. Panic spreads throughout Paris and eventually other cities as people buy into the plague theory despite official denials. Meanwhile, Adamsburg haunts Le Guern’s square, seeking suspects among the intriguing neighborhood eccentrics. A combination of scholarship and intuitive police work lead to a surprising solution.
Captivating characters, historical oddities and clever plotting all add up to a scintillating tale. Mystery fans will be avidly seeking more from Vargas (Seeking Whom He May Devour, not reviewed, etc.).