I am an unconditional fan of Vargas’ quirky Parisian mysteries, so I enjoyed meeting once again the 4 oddballs: Lucien aka St Luke, Matthias (St. Matthew) and Marc (St. Mark) living together with Mark’s uncle, a retired policeman (or was it forced retirement?) in a crumbling house, the Rotten Hut.
But I must admit that this isn’t Vargas’ best ever: unfortunately, or maybe just because it‘s the first in the series with these characters, it was quite slow to start and the mystery itself wasn’t as gripping as, say, Have Mercy on Us All.
This novel explains how the 4 get to settle down together in the house, and some room is devoted to background explanations (not all is said, though, to leave some for later books). The mystery unfolds next door, literally, as the Evangelists’ neighbour, a retired Greek opera diva is unsettled by the sudden appearance of a new tree in her garden (a beech, to be exact, an ongoing joke in French because “hêtre” sounds like “être”: to be, or a creature). This strange and benign incident is typical of Vargas (just like the letter 4 chalked on random doors throughout Paris launched Have Mercy on Us All), and escalates when the diva herself disappears.
It was fun, but something in the resolution didn’t quite taste and as light and zingy as the rest.