Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand by Fred Vargas. As was the case with the two previous books I’ve read from this French author, I was spellbound within the first few chapters and could not put this book down. Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, the sloppily dressed, yet sharp-minded, leader of the Paris Special Crimes Unit, is suffering, “something like when a cat jumps on to your shoulders with its claws out. A feeling of shock and fright, sending sweat down the back of his neck.” He determines that his oversensitive subconscious, an asset in his investigative work, is sending subliminal messages, which lead him to discover that a serial killer that he had tracked for fourteen years, but never captured, has returned from the dead to claim another victim. The killer soon realizes Adamsberg’s renewed interest and rather than seeking to avoid detection, actively tries to put our hero out of commission. The chess match between these two evenly matched adversaries is fascinating as each uses the people and resources available to them to try to isolate, weaken and capture the other.

In addition to the Columbo-esque commissaire, this adventure prominently features his dapper and dour capitaine Danglard and his large and loyal lieutenant Retancourt. These characters, and their relationships with their boss, are much better defined as a result. Readers of the series also learn more about Adamsberg’s history and family and are introduced to his brother. His ex-girlfriend, Camille, also makes an appearance with a significant development as well. Unique to this story is a geriatric computer hacker who provides critical assistance when Adamsberg is most in need. Vargas also adds complexity to the mystery by including a joint seminar between the Crimes Unit and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police squad and splitting the action between Paris and Quebec.

I can’t say enough good things about these books. Adamsberg seems to move calmly as if in the eye of a storm, immune and unaware of the activity surrounding him, but Vargas provides readers access to his inner turmoil. Similarly, the books have a strange blend of peacefulness and frenetic pace. As the series continues, I can only hope that Vargas can maintain the level of quality she has demonstrated thus far.

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