A CLIMATE OF FEAR
By Fred Vargas

 

Publisher: Penguin Books (March, 2017)
Format: paperback
Price: $ 16.00
ISBN-13: 978-0-14-310945-7

Kindle edition: $11.99

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A Commissaire Adamsberg mystery (Book 8)

 

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
(December, 2018)

 

Alice Gauthier knew her time on earth would soon come to an end, but she needed to do one more thing before she moved on to Heaven, or, more likely, Hell. On a cold Paris night, she carefully walked toward the nearest post box, leaning heavily on her Zimmer Frame. Just short of her goal she fell to the pavement. Good Samaritans rushed to help her, and she was rushed to the hospital.

A few days later she was dead, an apparent suicide. She was found slumped in her bath, her wrists slit. The magistrate urged the detective assigned to the case, Commissaire Bourlin of the fifteenth arrondissement, to close the case and move on to a real case. Bourlin wouldn’t give up that fast. Why was Alice wearing perfume, hair newly washed, nicely dressed if she was about to take her own life? And what was the meaning of the strange sign drawn onto the side of the bath? Who was the young man who’d visited her twice before her death?

With time running short, he called Commissaire Adamsberg of the Serious Crimes Squad in the thirteenth arrondissement for assistance. Adamsberg and Commandant Adrien Danglard, an expert on almost everything, went to examine the scene. Danglard had several theories on what the mysterious sign might be, but no definite answer. 

Their investigation led them to the young man who received Alice’s letter, Amedee Masfaure. The housekeeper was annoyed, but not surprised, to see policemen at the door. Others had come not long ago after her employer, the wealthy scientist Henri Masfaure, had killed himself with his shotgun. Not believing in coincidences. The team examined the scene, finding yet another sign, identical to the first. Amadee reluctantly revealed what Alice had written to him, with Henri’s secretary Victor Masfaure (no obvious relation) adding to the story.

Alice claimed that a horrendous crime had been committed ten years ago on a trip to Iceland. She was there, as well as Henri, a very young Amadee, Victor, and a few others whose names she did not remember. Amadee and Victor gave them their version of what had happened, but Adamsberg had his doubts about whether they were telling the truth.

While pursuing the Icelandic angle, another suspicious death sent them to a secret organization connected to Henri Masfaure. The Association for the Study of the Writings of Maximilien Robespierre. Its seven hundred members had to be considered suspects.

The case got more and more complex, and confusing. Adamsberg saw it as a giant web of tangled seaweed with impermeable knots. Never one to give up, he forged on, following the clues wherever they led him. To the dismay of his entire squad, he even followed the clues to Iceland.

This is the eighth novel in the internationally acclaimed Commissaire Adamsberg mystery series, and there is no doubt it will have as much success as the previous seven. Vargas is a master of writing police procedurals about bizarre crimes with intelligent, eccentric, odd characters and a richly-detailed sense of place.  Highly recommended.                 

 

Other titles in this series include:

HAVE MERCY ON US ALL (2005)

SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR (2006)

WASH THIS BLOOD (2007)

THIS NIGHT’S FOUL WORK (2008)

THE CHALK CIRCLE MAN (2009)

AN UNCERTAIN PLACE (2011)

THE GHOST RIDERS OF ORDEBEC (2013)

THE POISON WILL REMAIN (Scheduled for release August 20, 2019)


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