Sunday, September 29, 2013

Z is for Aurelio Zen

Aurelio Zen is the main character in a crime fiction series by Michael Dibdin (1947-2007). He is an Italian policeman, and at various times is posted to different cities in Italy. Dibdin was born in England and lived at times in Northern Ireland and Canada. He lived for four years in Italy, prior to writing the Aurelio Zen series. At the time of his death, he was living in Seattle, Washington with his wife, the author K. K. Beck.

I read the first Aurelio Zen book, Ratking, in late 2004. Nearly nine years ago. That book was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger for 1988. Regardless, when I read the book, I was not overly impressed. Which I suppose it why it took me so long to try the series again, even though I have several books in the series in my TBR pile.

This week, I read Vendetta, the second book in the series. In that novel, Zen is stationed in Rome but is sent to Sardinia to investigate the murder of a rich and eccentric businessman, Oscar Burolo, and his wife and visitors to his vacation home in Sardinia.

At the beginning of this book, Zen has been promoted to the Ministry's prestigious Criminalpol division. He had mistakenly thought this would be an interesting and challenging job, but he has found that the division is filled with cynical bureaucrats and rife with corruption. After providing an overview of the crime, he is sent to follow up on the case, and essentially to find (or manufacture) evidence to convict a suspect, regardless of the suspect's culpability for the crime.

This book has several outstanding elements. The prose is beautiful, and that alone makes it pleasant reading. The picture of Aurelio Zen's mundane life and his lusts and fears is very well done. He is no heroic figure, although he really does want to do the job honestly and well. He has a relationship with his elderly mother who lives with him that is well-drawn and turns in a different direction that you would expect. There is a flirtation with a secretary in his division that spices up the story.

Some excerpts:
What would happen when he no longer had this ready-made way of filling his days? The government had recently been making noises about the need to reduce the size of the bloated public sector. Early retirement for senior staff was one obvious option. Fortunately it was unlikely that anything more than talk would come of it. A government consisting of a coalition of five parties, each with an axe to grind and clients to keep happy, found it almost impossible to pass legislation that was likely to prove mildly unpopular with anyone, never mind tackle the bureaucratic hydra which kept almost a third of the working population in guaranteed employment. Nevertheless, he would have to retire one day. The thought of it continued to haunt him like the prospect of some chronic illness. How would he get through the day? What would he do? His life had turned into a dead end.
The streets were steeped in mild November sunlight and ringing with sounds. Gangs of noisy schoolchildren passed by, flaunting the personalities that would be buried alive for the next five hours. The metallic roars of shutters announced that the shops in the area were opening for business. A staccato hammering and the swishing of a paint sprayer issued from the open windows of the basement workshops where craftsmen performed mysterious operations on lengths of moulded wood. But the traffic dominated: the uniform hum of new cars, the idiosyncratic racket of the old, the throaty gurgle of diesels, the angry buzzing of scooters and three-wheeled vans, the buses' hollow roar, the chainsaw sound of an unsilenced trail bike, the squeal of brakes, the strident discord of horns in conflict.
Unfortunately I did not find the mystery element that intriguing, although I did like that there were multiple threads that are followed throughout. And I enjoyed the intrigues within his division.

All in all, I would say that I found much more good than bad in this novel, and it was definitely a good experience to read it. Dibdin just doesn't fall into my list of must read authors. I welcome other views and suggestions and information about other novels in the series.

From reading other reviews, it appears that there is a lot of diversity in the Aurelio Zen novels. They each have different formats or approaches. They have a very polished literary quality and may appeal to readers who are not so fond of crime novels. Thus I am sure I will continue to sample this series from time to time.

The books in the series are:
  1. Ratking (1988)
  2. Vendetta (1990)
  3. Cabal (1992)
  4. Dead Lagoon (1994)
  5. Cosi Fan Tutti (1996)
  6. A Long Finish (1998)
  7. Blood Rain (1999)
  8. And Then You Die (2002)
  9. Medusa (2003)
  10. Back to Bologna (2005)
  11. End Games (2007)
Submitted for the Alphabet in Crime Fiction for the letter Z. This community meme is hosted by Mysteries In Paradise. We are now at the end of the alphabet. Since I committed to a theme (police procedurals), it has been demanding to fit books I wanted to read into the alphabet scheme. On the other hand, concentrating on police procedurals in a 26-week period gave me an overview of the variations in how this sub-genre is approached by various authors. I will miss seeing other posts in the meme.

Also for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Reviews for that event are here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Yard: Alex Grecian

From a summary at the author's website:
Victorian London is a cesspool of crime and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives – known as “The Murder Squad” – to investigate countless murders every month.  Created after the Metropolitan police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt.  They have failed their citizens.  But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own…one of twelve…
This book is about a serial killer, but at this point of time in England, the idea of serial killers was not an accepted one, and many did not want to believe that such a thing could be happening. As often happens in serial killer novels, we do know from early in the book who the killer is, but there are still mysteries enough to keep us in suspense.

I enjoyed reading about this period in time. I found the picture the author draws of Victorian London to be very well done. If in some ways he is heavy-handed in his descriptions and scene-setting, I was intrigued and barely noticed.

One theme is the plight of children in this society. One body that is discovered is that of a very young boy who was stuck in a chimney. A detective tries to convince the constable that found the body that this is not a crime worth pursuing.
"You must stop thinking of this body as a boy. This is a laborer. A chimney climber, in the employ of a sweep, whose job it was to climb the inside walls of this chimney and clean it out. This person was doing his job, and he had that job because of his small size, not because of his age. His age is irrelevant here."

"Surely not, sir." Hammersmith was unable to rein in his temper any longer. "His size is directly related to his age. This is completely illegal. Small children are stolen from their parents by sweeps for this very purpose. They're used and cast aside when they grow too large to do the job properly. This is not some instrument of service, as you say; this is a little boy."

"No, this is a dead end. His employer didn't care enough about him to pull him from the fireplace, nor did his family step forward to ask for help. Nobody cares about this body, and it is not our job to take up lost causes."
I liked the development of the main characters, the primary policeman who is investigating the crime and the constables who work with the detectives. Based on the author's depiction of Scotland Yard, before the Ripper murders there had not been detectives whose primary focus was murder. This group is just starting to work together on this common goal, and they are working out the strategies that work.

Sir Edward Bradford, the Commissioner of Police, was a real person who did bring changes and improvements to Scotland Yard. The new detective in the Murder Squad is Detective Inspector Walter Day, who has recently moved from Devon. He is inexperienced but determined to do a good job.

If I have any complaints at all, they are minor. There were many threads to the story, and at times the story felt scattered. I felt that the various threads worked in the service of delivering a fuller picture of the times and the classes.

Submitted for the Alphabet in Crime Fiction for the letter Y. 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.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Planned Parenthood Book Sale, 2013

For more years than I care to remember I have been going to the annual Planned Parenthood Book Sale in September.  The sale lasts about 10 days, so two weekends, and we always go on the first weekend. And we go twice, of course.

My son and husband are more restrained than I and they usually buy between 10 and 20 books apiece. My son looks at sci fi and fantasy and then tries a few other areas.  My husband starts first at the area with photography books, then checks out some areas of history. This year it was World War II and American history. Then new fiction (which costs more). Then over to mysteries.

I am totally unrestrained, and buy tons of books. This year I looked at sci fi and fantasy some, but of course the mystery area is my focus. There are tables and tables of hard backs, trade paperbacks, and mass market paperbacks in the mystery area. The photo above shows three of the five tables of mass market paperback mysteries. The photo below shows tables of hardback and trade paperback mysteries. (All photos courtesy of my husband.)

They always have boxes of books by the popular authors, such as Lee Childs, Sue Grafton, Connelly, Cornwell, Evanovich, Patterson. Mostly I don't pay any attention to those; I either am not interested or already have enough books by those authors but if they have boxes of books by Agatha Christie and John Le Carre, I do go through those. Many of my copies of Christie novels came from a box they had a few years ago.

This year I found a few things I really was looking for, but mostly I just filled holes, added new books that looked interesting. This group of books was from the first trip to the booksale, and has a couple of my finds in it. More about those in a later post.

Some of the books in this stack I know nothing about, and may regret buying them. Beautiful Children by Charles Bock had an interesting cover but is not a mystery. I will read a few chapters and see what I think.

Same for Borderliners by Peter Hoeg, who is the author of Smilla's Sense of Snow. The book is about a group of children in an experimental school, and may be interesting, but is not a mystery.

The Facility by Simon Lelic is another unknown.

This is a stack of paperbacks by various authors, mostly ones I have read one or two books by.

Hugh Pentecost wrote several mystery series, but the ones I am most familiar with features Hotel Manager Pierre Chambrun. I read them years ago. I found one book in that series, and I will see if I still like them.

Another author I read years ago was Donald Westlake. The one book I found by him, Trust Me on This, is a comic novel.

I got another Walter Mosley book in the Easy Rawlins series, and also a hardback copy of Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, the first in the
Socrates Fortlow series.

You can barely see Hopjoy Was Here by Colin Watson in this stack. He is an author I want to try.

Last but not least is the stack of Penguin reprints that I got on the second day.

The Talented  Mr. Ripley is the first Ripley book by Patricia Highsmith and I have finally decided I want to try that series.

Stanley Ellin is another author I want to try. I have no idea if The Man from Nowhere is any good, but I will give it a try.

Also found several books by three authors I am interested in: Michael Gilbert, Michael Innes, and Nicholas Freeling. I have read a lot of books by Innes and know I enjoyed his books in the past. Gilbert and Freeling I am not sure about.

I don't remember all the books I bought, and I will have a post about more of them, but here are some that I got. If you have any comments on the author or the book, I would love to know what you think. 

Alfieri, Annamaria       City of Silver
Carter, Stephen L.      Jericho’s Fall 
Meredith, D. R.          Murder by Masquerade
Nabb, Magdalen        Death in Autumn
Paul, Barbara            Liars and Tyrants and People Who Turn Blue (1980)
Pentecost, Hugh        Remember to Kill Me (1988)

Matt Beynon Rees      The Collaborator of Bethlehem
Santlofer, Jonathan    The Death Artist
Taylor, Andrew           A Stain on the Silence

I go to the book sale knowing I won't find much on my list. It is a total crapshoot. This year my only real disappointment was not finding any books by Daniel Woodrell. Other than that, it was great and I could have bought another 30 or 40 books. Easily.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Infernal Detective: Kirsten Weiss

Book description from the author's website:
When Riga Hayworth finds a dead body in her bedroom a week before her wedding, it’s par for the course. When the corpse drives off with her fiancée… That’s a problem.

Riga knows dead. More intimately than she’d like. So when a murdered photographer gets up and walks away, she’s believes there’s necromancy afoot. And when she discovers that several of her wedding guests are under the influence of dark magic, she’s certain. But how can she catch a killer and stop a necromancer when even her nearest and dearest are lying to her?

Murder. The undead. Irritating relatives. The Infernal Detective is a fast-paced, paranormal mystery, based in Lake Tahoe.
This is a humorous, light mystery, laced with paranormal elements. Riga Hayworth looks a lot like Rita Hayworth and people are always telling her this. So from that point, you know this is not a totally serious, hard hitting mystery. Some of the characters are a little bit over the top. There are two ditsy aunts and a mobster who is stalking her. Riga has a niece who is pretty normal; a teenager who wants to learn to use her powers.

I don't really want to tell much more about the plot than the overview above... so as not to spoil the fun of reading the book. I will say that Riga is 44 and thus has some maturity. She has a Private Investigator's license, but it is for California and she is living in Nevada. Thus I did find that it was believable for her to investigate a crime on her own.

I did not read the first three books in this series, and this is a departure for me. I am usually rigid about reading in order. Luckily, in this case, I was able to enter into the spirit of the book with the background that is provided. The author did a pretty good job of providing just enough information without spending a lot of exposition on her past.  I did have questions about how Riga got to her present situation, and that will send me back to the earlier books to see.

As I noted, this is a light mystery and it is clearly in the fantasy genre. So not a typical read for me. I would call this a cozy, also not typical for me. But I was entertained by the story and Riga's predicaments. She is a take-charge person and not timid at all. My prejudice in the past has been that paranormal gifts give the detective an unfair advantage, thus taking the tension out of the story. Not in this case, however.

I would recommend this for readers of paranormal mysteries or urban fantasy. Although this is not a Young Adult novel, I think it would work well for young adults.

This book was provided for review by the author.

This book is submitted for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. That event celebrates reading of books of mystery, suspense, and horror. The event continues through October 31, 2013. Reviews for that event are here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Devotion of Suspect X: Keigo Higashino

This book is an inverted mystery; the reader knows from the beginning who committed the murder. Thus the mystery is more involved in how the murderer is discovered. And in this case, there is so much more, with twists and turns you do not expect.

Yasuko Hanaoka is surprised when her abusive ex-husband Togashi shows up at her apartment. He wants money from her and threatens both her and her teenaged daughter Misato.Togashi ends up dead, strangled. Yasuko’s next door neighbor, Mr. Ishigami, offers to help them dispose of the body. Of course, once the body is discovered, the police consider Yasuko one of the suspects and life becomes very tense for Yasuko, her daughter, and her neighbor.

I will start out by saying I enjoyed the book very much. I only rate books on Goodreads, and there I only gave it 4 stars, not 5. But in reality, I would make it 4.5 out of 5, very close to the top.

On the back cover of the edition I read, Jan Burke compares this book to a Golden Age mystery and I would agree. It has a similar setup to The Tattoo Murder Mystery (reviewed here), which was published in Japan in 1948 and features a very intelligent man (genius) helping the policeman with his case.
The Devotion of Suspect X has all the brilliant intricacy of the best Golden Age mysteries - puzzle within puzzle, twist after twist - with a modern sensibility.  It is a wonderful, fresh take on the classic mystery's intellectual struggle between protagonist and antagonist, adds to it all the right amounts of tension and pacing, places it in a fascinating setting, and gives to all of this plenty of heart.
-- Jan Burke
This book is part of a series known as the Detective Galileo series. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist, known affectionately as "Detective Galileo," has been friends with police detective Kusanagi since attending college together and they often talk about Kusanagi's cases. Per Wikipedia, the first two books in the series were short story collections, so this would be the first novel in the series. This book  is set in Tokyo, Japan. However, the setting is not a strong part of the novel, although we do learn about social interactions and relationships in Japan.

The author kept me involved in the story, as I tried to figure why and how the neighbor was involved with the coverup. I actually felt myself rooting for Yasuko Hanaoka and her daughter, hoping that they would not be found at as murderers. Yet I was pretty sure that with a genius helping the police, there was going to be a solution. All of the characters were either appealing or interesting.

The review by Naomi Hirahama at Criminal Elements is very positive but does point out some quibbles with the book. One I agree with is that the author does not reveal as much about the daughter's thoughts or state of mind as the other characters. This may have been intentional, but I agree that it could have improved the story to give her more depth.

At Chasing Bawa, Sakura draws the same comparison to The Tattoo Murder Mystery as I did, and she also discusses the Galileo TV series.

My husband did give this book 5 stars and has a brief review at Goodreads:
This might not be a perfect "inverted" mystery but it is very, very clever and held me from first chapter to last.

The numerous characters are all sharply drawn and the plotting is - no other word for it - elegant.
Other reviews which provide more information on the book and the author are here:

Submitted for the Alphabet in Crime Fiction for the letter X. 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.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Broken Shore: Peter Temple

A mystery magazine that I read, Deadly Pleasures, has a feature each issue called "Reviewed to Death." They pick a title and six to eight reviewers all read and review that book. It is interesting to see different takes on the book, but sometimes the reviews get repetitive. I think, over the years, that The Broken Shore has been reviewed to death (online, not in the magazine). I don't think I can add much to the praise that has been heaped upon it.

Homicide detective Joe Cashin was part of an operation gone wrong, and he was badly injured and traumatized. A co-worker died as a result. He has been reassigned to the quiet, relatively crime free, town of Port Monro, where he spends a lot of time thinking about the past, both related to work and his family. Port Monro is his home town and he ends up getting reacquainted with old friends and family.

An overview from a  review at the Washington Post, from 2007.
There is, in fact, a great deal of action ahead -- murder, rape, suicide, child abuse, police brutality, shootouts -- but always in the context of gorgeous writing. The novel is in fact an exceptional blending of first-rate crime fiction and a literary sensibility. This does not come entirely as a surprise. Temple isn't well known in this country, but in Australia, where he lives, "The Broken Shore" has already won the Ned Kelly Award for crime fiction, as did four of his previous novels.
The Crime Writer's Association awarded this book the 2007 Duncan Lawrie Dagger for best crime novel of the year.

The strengths of this book are its depiction of rural areas in Australia and the inhumane treatment of the aboriginal population there.  The depth of hatred and bigotry that some of the townspeople exhibit is very unpleasant and conveyed very convincingly.  Also Temple develops very interesting characters.

The drawbacks, for me, were that the story of Joe Cashin and the surrounding crime investigation did not grab me, pull me into the book. I enjoyed reading the book and I got a lot out of it, but it wasn't a spectacular experience like it was for many others.

A small point, but Cashin has two large poodles, and his relationship with them does a lot to reveal his character (in a good way).

Also reviewed at these blogs:

I do plan to read more books by Peter Temple. This was my first, and I want to read the book that follows and features Inspector Stephen Villani, who was in The Broken Shore, but not a main character. I also want to try the Jack Irish series.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The White Trilogy: Ken Bruen

My plan was to read The White Arrest by Ken Bruen. But I was reading that book in The White Trilogy, and when I got to the end, I could not stop. I kept on reading until I had finished all three books in the trilogy in three days. Only about 150 pages each, that sounds easy, but for me it was an accomplishment. Having read only one Ken Bruen book previously (The Guards), I was already a fan. Now I am not sure which series I like better.

In the Introduction to The White Trilogy, Ken Bruen tells us...
                         We will not now
Or ever
Help you in any form fashion or method
In research
Regarding the Metropolitan Police.

So said Scotland Yard when I asked them for assistance regarding:

Pay scales
For a planned series on London coppers.
So Ken Bruen proceeds to write
A White Arrest.

Inventing that term to mean a stunning arrest that would whitewash all previous screw-ups.
I wanted a bad-ass bigoted blunt violent sergeant as the focus, with a surrounding cast of dysfunctional cops in an imagined South East London station, close to where I had lived for ten years.

A White Arrest introduces Chief Inspector Roberts and Detective Sergeant Brant. They are working on two cases, one involving murders of dope dealers, the other a killer aiming at members of the England cricket team. In Taming the Alien, Brant visits Ireland and New York. The McDead is a story of revenge, with Roberts seeking to get back at the man who killed his brother, who seems to be protected by the higher ranks in the police department.

I have said on this blog that I have a preference for series where the policeman is not damaged or flawed. Nice family men just trying to do a good job every day. Detective Sergeant Tom Brant does not fit that description at all, but he is now on my list of favorite fictional policemen. The best description I read was amoral. Brant does what he thinks he has to do to deal with criminals and stay alive. And what he does may not be strictly legal.

Yet I love these books. Having already read The Guards, I knew what to expect, roughly. I knew it would not be an easy read, a comfort read.

Ken Bruen's writing is poetic. He draws me into the story and I don't care that the protagonists are hard and violent and willing to bend the law.

I like so many characters in this series.
WPC Falls

The story of Falls in this trilogy is heart breaking but also very affirming. She is a strong female character with a lot of facets to her character

Roberts is sixty-two and feeling his age. He has a wife and a teenage daughter, but police work (among other things) has strained their relationships. He has dreams of a real family life.

I especially liked that Brant is a big McBain fan and has all of his books, the 87th Precinct books, the Matthew Hope books, and even all the books written as Evan Hunter. Brant sees the cops in the 87th Precinct series as the ideal, yet he is very far from that ideal (keeping in mind that I have only read the first three in the McBain series).

I could go on and on with praise for these books.

I had been looking for the first books in this series for a while, but Keishon at Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog was the one who alerted me to the reprints of the Brant series at and the eBooks from Open Road Integrated Media. I opted to get the trade paperback version of the trilogy, and it was well worth the price. I have purchased the next book in the series.

Please see Keishon's reviews of A White Arrest, Taming the Alien, and The McDead.

Submitted for the Alphabet in Crime Fiction for the letter W. This community meme is hosted by Mysteries In Paradise.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mysteries in August and Pick of the Month

I read seven mysteries in August, and I enjoyed all of them. A very good month. They were all so good it is hard to pick a favorite for the month.

These are the books I read in August:
  1. Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage
  2. Skulduggery by William Marshall
  3. The Square of Revenge by Peter Aspe
  4. Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten
  5. Unholy Ground by John Brady
  6. Murder at Hazelmoor by Agatha Christie
  7. Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas
Two books set in European countries, written in a foreign language, were in competition for my favorite: Detective Inspector Huss (Sweden) and Seeking Whom He May Devour (France).  But in the end I think Detective Inspector Huss, by Helene Tursten, is my pick of the month.

Some of my comments on that book:
Detective Inspector Irene Huss is a strong female character, and I like that. In addition to highlighting sociological issues in Sweden, the book addresses women's roles in male dominated jobs like law enforcement.

The author has the gift of portraying the characters ... at least the detectives ... as real people with real lives. The details of Huss' day to day life feel authentic but not boring. One of the minor subplots deals with the neo-Nazi movement in Sweden.
The Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme is hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. Bloggers link to summary posts for the month, and identify a crime fiction best read of the month. Check out the link here to see the other bloggers picks.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Seeking Whom He May Devour: Fred Vargas

I have read two books in the Commissaire Adamsberg series by Fred Vargas, and I had two vastly different reactions.  When I read The Chalk Circle Man (the first book in the series), I was disappointed. The book did not seem to be about much, and Adamsberg seemed to spend all of his time ignoring his coworkers findings and waiting to have his intuition proved correct. [Keep in mind that I read this two years ago and my memory of events in the book may be prejudiced by time.] Adamsberg did prove that his intuition was right and he did solve the crime, but I did not enjoy the book.

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.
The local authorities have ignored suggestions that Massart is either a werewolf or a man with a wolf who is killing sheep and humans. As Camille and her motley crew pursue Massart through the Alps, the killings continue. Eventually Camille decides she must call on Commissaire Adamsberg of Paris. They have a history and she does not want to see him, but she feels she must ask for his help.

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.

Other reviews:
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.