Fred Vargas, Sous les Vents de Neptune (Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand, Fr. 2004)

Shame on me: I remember reading this book when it was warm and thinking that reading a novel set in the Canadian winter was so refreshing. Right now, refreshment isn’t exactly on my mind anymore, so you can guess how long it’s been.

Well, add one or two more months to your estimate and that should be closer to the truth.

But Vargas and her quirky hero Commissaire Adamsberg are timeless. There’s no season for them.

Returning to a Fred Vargas’ thriller from time to time feels like coming home, like a big pot of soup cooked again every night over and over on winter nights. Actually, you don’t care too much what’s in the soup as long as you know it’s cooked with love.

Alright, that’s a bit of a pretext for not giving you a full account of what’s going on in this book, but then, how to sum a Fred Vargas’ up without sounding like a crazy person? All her characters and situations are so improbable that you either love it, or hate it. There’s no middle ground.

At the beginning of this novel Commissaire Adamsberg is highly unsettled by the resurfacing of a killer he’d considered dead for decades. How can a dead person be killing again? (don’t even ask, I told you Vargas’ plots weren’t commonplace). And this killer stroke close to Adamsberg’s heart, as his own brother was accused in his place.

But Adamsberg also has other worries: his brigade’s morale isn’t quite as it should be, and they all have to go to Quebec for a two-weeks long training (that’s the implausible part, given the police budget restrictions in France, ah ah). Even on the other side of the ocean, the dead killer with a Trident can’t get out of Adamsberg’s head.

The change of scenery to Quebec is clever, all the more as Canadian French language makes the dialogues even quirkier than the usual Vargas fare. We readers feel how much fun Vargas had writing it, which makes it an even better experience.


5 thoughts on “Fred Vargas, Sous les Vents de Neptune (Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand, Fr. 2004)

  1. I’ve only read the one Vargas novel (in translation) and although I’ve been meaning to read more I’m wondering whether this would be a good one to go to or not. Given the fact that the humour is centred around the two different French dialects, would I lose a lot of it?

    • I have no idea how good the translation is. The dialect part is added bonus, but without it there’s a lot to the plot and the characters as well. The culture clash between American and European cultures doesn’t need translation skills.
      If you don’t choose this one, a good place to start would be The 3 evangelists (not featuring Adamsberg), or Have mercy on us all. The books with Adamsberg follow one another loosely, but you can enjoy them separately as well.

  2. I will have to look for this one! I like cold weather mysteries and have gotten hooked on several Scandinavian ones. I wonder if I have the energy to read this one in French. Thanks for the review.

  3. Pingback: The one I found tepidly cold | Smithereens

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