Review: Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas (Vintage)


Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas
Published by Vintage Books – Out Now

Returning to the next books in a series is always a bit nerve racking especially as Fred Vargas cleverly lead me up the garden path and then threw me off the edge of a cliff in her last one. It’s a hard trick to pull off once never mind twice.

Following a few years on from The Chalk Circle Man we catch up with Commissionaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg in Seeking Whom He May Devour as he’s drawn into investigating the death of the farmer Suzanne Rosselin at the hands, or should that be teeth, of a werewolf. Well that’s the opinion of a small group who are convinced that the attacks on sheep in the French mountains and her death hasn’t been caused by a wolf of unnatural size and strength that’s roaming the countryside but a human beast.

The strange thing for a detective novel is that for most part Adamsberg takes a back seat. He watches the strange and disturbing events from Paris, slowly, sifting and separating, and waiting. And even though the reader knows he’s going to get involved we’re not sure when or how.

Vargas makes the reader wait. Instead she focuses on building the characters and the relationships around Suzanne’s friend Camille as she is persuaded to join Suzanne’s son, Soliman and the farmer’s shepherd, Watchee, as they try to track down the beast.

One of the main strengths in Seeking Whom He May Devour is the focus on developing characters. Camille is fascinating not only from knowing a part of her history from reading The Chalk Circle Man but the way she uses a DIY catalogue, her relationship with the documentary maker Johnstone and how Adamsberg complicates all this.

I enjoyed the pace that Vargas sets. She introduces Adamsberg into the main thread when he really has is own problems and getting involved in this case that isn’t his going to complicate his life even more.

When the revelation of whether it’s a man or werewolf or wolf is revealed I for one again fell off the cliff. Now this sounds like Vargas is out to trick the reader and manipulate them. I don’t think she is. There are no dirty tricks here.  She does keep you guessing and lulls you into the lives of the main case that you don’t see what else could be happening.

I need to read Have Mercy On Us All now. She’s that good.

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