Fred Vargas, L’Armée Furieuse (2011)

Oops, she did it again… Draw me into a totally implausible story, mixing contemporary murder with an old folk myth, And I fell for it from the first few pages on, like with (all) the previous ones (I have reviewed 6 of them here).

I guess you have to love Vargas or hate it, and I stand firmly in the first group. Killjoy might argue that this is getting formulaic, that her stories are so unrealistic that there is no point in them. It just like saying Snow White  and the dwarves can’t be true so there’s no point in reading it.

In fact, it’s like a playful tale, with lots of inventive uses for language. Not only is the plot full of twists and turns, but the language itself is also fun to read. People in Vargas’ novels are contemporary, but they are so weird and one of a kind that it is agreed from the start that they only exist in fiction. Yet, they are alive and kicking! At least, for those who don’t cross the path of an evil criminal…

After a short introduction where Adamsberg solves a murder whose weapon is white bread (of  all  things!), the scene moves progressively from Paris to Normandy, where the Wild Hunt, a horde of devils, ghosts and zombies, ride through the woods by night to steal away those who have committed an unpunished crime. At first Adamsberg is tempted to shrug it off as superstition, but when a real corpse shows up in the woods, he settles down in a local hotel and investigates the local gossips and old grudges, convinced that someone is using the old tale to scare people and settle old scores in blood.

As in previous books, this myth is not invented by Vargas, it’s a popular European myth that seems to exist in England, France, Germany and Scandinavian countries as well. It was interesting to discover this story, just like many tiny bits of knowledge that Vargas likes to disseminate from page to page.

The book has been translated to English and published as The Ghost Riders of Ordebec.

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5 thoughts on “Fred Vargas, L’Armée Furieuse (2011)

  1. Very interesting review. A friend (and avid crime fiction fan) persuaded me to buy a Fred Vargas recently by telling me that she’s not really a crime writer. I trust her so I bought it although I haven’t read it yet!

  2. Yes, I’m in the band of Vargas fans – I just love all her eccentric characters and the nearly impossible stories. I actually thought this one was a bit more plausible and ‘calmer’, more domestic, than some of her previous ones. I think a couple of earlier ones gave me nightmares (but in a good way, if that’s possible).

  3. Interesting. I’m tempted to choose a Vargas novel for my mystery book group, although I worry they won’t like her. Do you have a sense of what the best Vargas book might be to choose for the group?

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