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by Fred Vargas

Pub Date: July 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-14-311595-3
Publisher: Penguin

An eccentric Parisian killer baffles professional and amateur sleuths alike.

Impulsive oceanographer Mathilde Forestier becomes more than a bit obsessed with Charles Reyer, an impossibly handsome blind man she meets on the terrace of the Café Saint-Jacques. Because she habitually wanders the streets of Paris, she makes herself responsible for finding and helping him. When success in this endeavor eludes her, Mathilde goes for assistance to the police headquarters of the 5th arrondissement, to which Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg (This Night’s Foul Work, 2008, etc.) has just been transferred. The charmingly quirky Adamsberg has taken Inspector Adrien Danglard under his wing as a protégé, and the admiration is more than mutual; Danglard seems as obsessed with his boss as Mathilde is with Charles. Having recently solved a baffling murder case, Adamsberg finds Mathilde’s whimsy entertaining, and they discuss the weird local phenomenon of The Chalk Circle Man, who has been drawing large circles accompanied by a cryptic message all over the city. Finally locating the frequently choleric Charles, Mathilde brings him into her household, which also includes impossibly sunny assistant Clémence Valmont, who’s constantly scanning the personal ads for a lover despite her advanced age. When a murdered woman is found inside one of the chalk circles, the case becomes a serious police matter. Mathilde’s claim that she knows the identity of the Chalk Circle Man, who may be merely the killer’s unwitting accomplice, implicates her in murder.

As droll and fascinating as la ville lumière itself.