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Vargas, Fred - 'This Night's Foul Work' (translated by Sian Reynolds)
Hardback: 416 pages (Feb. 2008) Publisher: Harvill Secker ISBN: 1846551862

THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK follows swiftly on from the events of the previous book, WASH THIS BLOOD CLEAN FROM MY HAND. Commissaire Adamsberg has had a few weeks off and has bought himself a new house, which he later find comes with the unexpected bonus of "seven corpses in the garden and a ghost with a face like a walnut". Camille is still under protection and Adamsberg visits his baby son frequently.

The murders of of two large men look to be drug related however Adamsberg is convinced they are not and asks for the acting pathologist, Ariane Lagarde to find evidence that the case belongs to the Serious Crime Squad. Adamsberg and Ariane have a history, as when Adamsberg was a junior officer he believed a suicide was in fact murder, contrary to Ariane's opinion. Guess who was correct...

The past also comes back to haunt Adamsberg in the shape of a new member of the team, Veyrenc, who is from the adjacent village to Adamsberg in the Pyrenees and who is trying to track down the leader of the gang of boys who attacked him when he was eight, leaving him with both physical and mental scars.

The two men's deaths are the beginning of a case which take the team to and from Normandy, investigating disturbed graves and deaths of stags and trying to track down Norman virgins. The culprit behind all the criminal deeds is thought to be a district nurse, jailed for killing over thirty old people, who has recently escaped from prison. The disappearance of a beloved member of the team raises the tempo and anxiety levels all the way to a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.

THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK is possibly Vargas's quirkiest work to date and that's saying something. As well as the neatly plotted but outlandish plot, we also have Veyrenc who speaks most of his dialogue in verse with lines twelve syllables long (causing much fun to the excellent translator no doubt) and then there's Snowball the tracker cat....

As usual, I absolutely loved the latest offering from Vargas. The story is bizarre but the humour and lightness in the way it's written make it seem convincing in this alternative Adamsberg universe, where his team are divided into positivists and cloud shovellers. The individual team members also start to have their own identities, such as Estalere who has memorised every officer's coffee preference and Froissy the technological whiz and food lover.

There's even a cameo from Mathias from THE THREE EVANGELISTS, called in after this exchange:

"If there's a sound to be heard, and we're not hearing it, it means we're deaf. The earth isn't dumb, but we're not skilled enough. We need a specialist, an interpreter, someone who can hear the sound of the earth."
"What do you call one of those? asked Justin anxiously.
"An archaeologist", said Adamsberg taking out his telephone, "or a shit-stirrer if you prefer.

Read more reviews of THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK: here, here and here.

Karen Meek, England
February 2008

Karen blogs at Euro Crime.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 8/02/2009 14:04