Wednesday, 10 August 2011

France Month: Review - The French Wallander...

I recently listened to a podcast from the books section of The Guardian. Their literary reviewer was on a quest for the French equivalent of Henning Mankell's Wallander series, he believed he had found it in Fred Vargas. So I decided to have a look at Vargas' first novel, The Chalk Circle Man.

The story introduces Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, a unique detective who has just arrived in Paris. While he deals with his usual cases he takes an interest in a series of chalk circles that have started to appear on the streets of the city. Nobody knows who is drawing them or why, they are always centred around objects on the pavement and appear in the dead of night. Adamsberg is convinced that they will lead to something sinister and soon enough a murdered woman is found within one.

The story is short, tense and enthralling. Adamsberg is a wonderful character whose methods and habits irritate his fellow officers, but he's a natural detective. He works more on instinct than deduction, which on the surface may seem frustrating, but his mind is brilliant and unique. The other characters that populate the novel are wonderfully eccentric including a marine biologist who likes to follow people and an antisocial blind man. I especially like Adamsberg's partner, who confesses his alcoholism at their first meeting by telling Adamsberg that he'll be 'no good after 4 o'clock.'

I must at this point reveal that I've never read any of the Wallander novels, so I can't comment on the comparison. But I can report that The Chalk Circle Man introduces a great detective in a great story that's perfect for anyone who loves a good detective yarn. It's a credit to Fred Vargas that she created a novel that's funny, dark, unpredictable and original.

Written by Mark

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the introduction to Vargas's Chalk Circle Man. I will check it out.