Now I have read the second book in the series, Seeking Whom He May Devour, and I have a very different reaction to that one. There are differences. The first book was set in Paris; this book is set in the French Alps. In the first two thirds of the book, the story centers on a group of people residing in the French Alps who are on a quest to stop a murderer, and we only get glimpses of Adamsberg now and then. Adamsberg is functioning as a policeman in this book, but his involvement is also personal.
Excerpts from the plot summary at Goodreads:
A small mountain community in the French Alps is roused to terror when they awaken each morning to find yet another of their sheep with its throat torn out. One of the villagers thinks it might be a werewolf, and when she's found killed in the same manner, people begin to wonder if she might have been right. Suspicion falls on Massart, a loner living on the edge of town.
The murdered woman's adopted son, one of her shepherds, and her new friend Camille decide to pursue Massart, who has conveniently disappeared.
For most of this book, the story seems more fantasy than real. But in the end, there is a real solution that makes sense. Reading the book and accepting the story takes some suspension of disbelief. However, for me, the writing style and the story were compelling, and I read this less for the mystery, more for the story of the unusual band traveling together with a common goal.
Other positive aspects of this book are the two maps at the beginning. I love books with maps. And I learned a little more about France and the French Alps.
There were hints of Camille's past relationship with Adamsberg in The Chalk Circle, but in neither book do we get much of their history. It is clear that they both feel strongly for each other, and it is left at that.
I will continue this series, if only to determine if this was a fluke for me, and the rest of the books will be more like the first book. On the other hand, I suspect that if I had read other books in the series first, I would have approached The Chalk Circle with a different mindset. The books were translated into English out of order, so many readers probably read The Chalk Circle after reading other books in the series.
These are words that are often used to describe this series and Commissaire Adamsberg: quirky, eccentric, unorthodox, bizarre, grotesque. Whether or not that type of mystery normally appeals to you, I would recommend trying this series just to give it a taste and see if it is for you. The problem is, I am not sure which book is a good place to start. And it may depend on the reader. I saw many comments on Goodreads indicating that readers loved the first book and hated Seeking Whom He May Devour. And vice versa.
Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau. In addition to writing, she is a historian and archaeologist. The books in this series have been translated by Sian Reynolds. Author and translator have won four International Daggers awarded by the CWA.
A very positive review of Seeking Whom He May Devour at Mysteries in Paradise.
A review of The Ghost Riders of Ordebec (the most recent book) with a list of the books in order of publication at Crime Scraps Review.
More reviews of The Ghost Riders of Ordebec at Crimepieces and Ms. Wordopolis Reads.
Submitted for the Alphabet in Crime Fiction for the letter V. This community meme is hosted by Mysteries In Paradise.
Also for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Reviews for that event are here.