The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas
Published by Harvill Secker and out now
The Chalk Circle Man is my first French crime novel in translation and it’s also the first appearance of detective Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg although, strangely, it’s not his first appearance in the UK.
And what an entrance to make. It starts innocently enough when a series of chalk circles start appearing on the streets of Paris. At the centre of each is an increasing bizarre selection of objects. That is until a body is found. After that it is no longer a curious sight but the anticipation of another body that surrounds their arrival.
Adamsberg isn’t what I’m used to in a detective. And by the way the atmosphere in the station alters in the months after his arrival his methods aren’t what his detectives are used to either.
He’s a gatherer. He sits back and waits. He follows his feelings. He doesn’t shout, control, or interrogate. That’s not to say that questioning isn’t going on. He leaves that to people like Danglard who has no qualms about being more direct and upsetting.
Vargas seems to be interested in people and the story centres around a small group of including- a blind man, a record-keeping stalker and a serial dater to name the most focused on trio. But we focus on their lives we find out through them more about the mystery of The Chalk Circle Man.
I have a feeling Adamsberg’s character and his detection-style is going to continue to intrigue and delight. Plus Vargas has a way of storytelling that masks the mystery until the final unveiling and then you think, why didn’t I see that before!
I’ll definitely be reading more especially after reading the blurb for:
Seeking Whom He May Devour
In this frightening and surprising novel, the eccentric,wayward genius of Commissaire Adamsberg is pitted against the deep-rooted mysteries of one Alpine village’s history, and a very present problem: wolves. Disturbing things have been happening up in the French mountains; more and more sheep are being found with their throats torn-out. The evidence points to a wolf of unnatural size and strength. However Suzanne Rosselin thinks it is the work of a werewolf. Then Suzanne is found slaughtered in the same manner. Her friend Camille attempts, with Suzanne’s son Soliman and her shepherd, Watchee, to find out who, or what is responsible, and they call on Commissaire Adamsberg for help.