” The smell was ghastly, the scene was appalling, and even Adamsberg stiffened, standing back a little behind his English colleague. From the ancient shoes, with their crackled leather and trailing laces, projected decomposed ankles, showing dark flesh and white shinbones, which had been cleanly chopped off…. They were just there on the pavement, terrible and provocative, sitting inside their shoes at the historic gateway to Highgate Cemetery. They formed a carefully arranged and unspeakable pile.” Fred Vargas writes police procedurals that are always a bit off center.
In AN UNCERTAIN PLACE, Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is in London attending an international police conference. Adamsberg has refused to learn English so he depends on Danglard to translate . But the language barrier has made him hopelessly bored until their British liaison, DCI Radstock is called to the scene and brings his French charges along for the trip. Through Danglard, Adamsberg assures his host that strange things happen in France, too.
“Seven thirty next morning. the Commissaire, thunderstruck, was sitting, and gazing at the crime scene, under the anxious eyes of his colleagues – so abnormal was it for Adamsberg to be thunderstruck, or indeed to be sitting in a chair. But he remained where he was, his face expressionless, and his eyes darting around, as if he had no wish to see, and was projecting is gaze far away so that nothing should lodge in his memory. He was forcing himself to think back…when he had not yet seen this room drenched in blood.”
The crimes are so bizarre that Adamsberg wonders if they might have been committed by the same person. Events ultimately bring Adamsberg to Serbia where he finds himself examining the possibility that vampires are involved.
Introducing the notion of vampires might suggest that Vargas has written a comic novel. She hasn’t. She leads Adamsberg to an understanding of legends and superstitions and the impact they have on true believers.
It isn’t possible to summarize the book in any meaningful way. Fred Vargas writes books that have to be read to be appreciated. There are layers, curves, and twists in each book that move the story to a reasonable and satisfying conclusion but not without seemingly going off the rails a couple of times.
The Adamsberg books should be read in order because the author makes reference to things in previous books in the series. If you have not yet found a wonderful site, http://www.stopyou’rekillingme.com, please take a look. Books in a series are listed in order.