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by Fred Vargas & translated by Sian Reynolds

Pub Date: June 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-14-311359-1
Publisher: Penguin

When two thugs are found with their throats cut, the local narcs claim the case, but as usual Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg knows better.

Adamsberg, who looks like Columbo and thinks like Holmes, heads the Serious Crime Squad in Paris. His flights of fancy are scorned by his detractors. Often his “unstructured mind [is] like an unreadable map” even to his own people. So it’s business as usual when, after the briefest of examinations, he declares that though the stiffs were certainly drug dealers, their murders were not drug-related. On the strength of this gnomic observation, Adamsberg wangles a few extra days to make the case for his side of the turf war. Insights provided by beautiful, elegant, world-class pathologist Dr. Ariane Lagarde point Adamsberg toward a serial killer who, for reasons of his own, battens on young virgins with splendid hair. With two virgins down, Adamsberg intuits—he rarely makes a move not proceeded by an intuition—that one more is to follow. He’s right, of course. So the game’s afoot, the race is on—and eventually the case is cracked in a way that apparently convinces the powers that be but may leave readers shaking their heads.

A sub-par performance by a popular French writer (Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand, 2007, etc.) who this time out seems unduly charmed by her own eccentricity.