This Night’s Foul Work

This Night’s Foul Work by Fred Vargas. Two years ago I read Vargas’ Have Mercy on us all and liked it so much I put on my Best Books of the Year list. Her newest title featuring the contemporary French police commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is just as compelling. You’ll read for a while, finish a chapter, look up at the clock and realize much more time has gone by than you thought. You’ll remember all the other things you should be doing and then decide they aren’t really that important and continue on into the next chapter. Adamsberg is one of those slow-paced detectives whose ability to find connections from seemingly unrelated clues makes it appear to others that he grabs solutions out of thin air. He is happiest taking long walks or spending time by himself, but relies heavily on the other 26 members of the Serious Crime Squad he supervises. Each member of the team has their own expertise that comes into play in solving the multiple murders in the current book. In addition, a new lieutenant has joined the department, disrupting its delicate balance and bringing with him Adamsberg’s childhood secret.

The immediate case before the squad involves the death of two young men, suspected drug dealers, who have had their throats slashed. The new pathologist believes that the killer is a woman and the dirt under the victims’ fingernails leads to a complex mystery based on revenge. As the investigation flows along like a river, it occasionally gets sidetracked when the police make a poor assumption or reach a bad conclusion, but eventually all the many sub-plots come together. Still, the solution is a shocking surprise.

Vargas is a two-time winner of the Crime Writer’s Association award for best translated crime novel of the year (This Night’s Foul Work was nominated, but did not win). Critics complain that her plots can be unbelievable and that the characters are exaggerated and weird, but even her detractors find her combination of humor and suspense to be irresistible and powerfully addictive.


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