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Vargas, Fred - 'Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand' (translated by Sian Reynolds)
Paperback: 400 pages (Jan. 2008) Publisher: Vintage ISBN: 0099488965

Paris based police Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is about to go with colleagues on a DNA profiling course to Quebec when a newspaper report about a recent murder of a young woman brings back unwanted memories. The victim has been killed with three puncture wounds to the abdomen. Eight previously similar killings all with suspects, including Adamsberg's own brother, were committed between 1943 and 1987 and Adamsberg believes these were carried out by a Judge Fulgence using a trident type weapon. The only problem is, the Judge died 16 years ago.

Adamsberg must try and locate this dead man as another suspect found at the murder scene is about to be convicted. However, when in Canada there is another similar murder and this time Adamsberg is the suspect. He has to go on the run to try and prove his innocence.

I have never read anything from this author before. I hadn't in fact appreciated that Fred Vargas is a lady! Born Frederique Audouin-Rouzeau, she took the name of a character played by Ava Gardner in 'The Barefoot Contessa'. Her twin sister Jo has taken the Vargas name also. Fred seems to be quite a character - she qualified as a mediaeval archaeologist, she recently invented a breathable rubber suit to combat avian flu, and for the last three years she has battled with the French government to stop the extradition to Italy of fellow crime writer Cesare Battisti for murder.

You have to suspend belief for parts of this book, well plotted with some wonderful characters which include Lieutenant Violette Retancourt, Clementine Coubert and the senior citizen computer hacker Josette. The Adamsberg character reminded me of the two zen detectives in the Dutch novels by Janwillem Van de Wetering. Despite being an expert "cloud shoveller" Adamsberg is very slow on the uptake regarding his ex-lover Camille. The flights of fancy and the unusual analogies take some getting used to, but overall I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Ms Vargas.

Read more reviews of WASH THIS BLOOD CLEAN FROM MY HAND here, here and here.

Geoff Jones, England
February 2008

last updated 22/03/2008 19:45