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The Chalk Circle Man
by Fred Vargas

Release Date: 1st Mar 2009
Publisher: Harville Secker
ISBN: 978 1 8434 3272 2
RRP: 12.99

Average Customer Rating: 
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The first Adamsberg novel - we're glad it wasn't the last!

Introducing Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, a French policeman unlike any other. Much as Poirot was Agatha Christie's great invention, Vargas, in her own way, has created a subtle character that is both mystifying and electric. The Chalk Circle Man follows Adamsberg's move to Paris subsequent to his incomprehensible success in the rural villages around the Pyrenees, utilising his unorthodox and baffling policing methods. Adamsberg, himself, seems unperturbed by his successes - deriving no pleasure in uncovering other people's dark misdoings. Seemingly without conscious effort, the guilty come to him in his thoughts, his dreams, and his subconscious. Paris, it seems, is in need of someone with these skills - especially after strange chalk circles start appearing, drawn around miscellaneous objects apparently discarded on the pavements.

The Chalk Circle Man is born as a media circus - a benign freak of nature, an attention-seeking artist, a madman roaming wild around the streets of Paris - only Adamsberg seems disturbed by their appearances; somehow seeing beyond the obvious and discerning a sinister rationale for their presence. As events unfold, we see into the very heart and soul of this rather odd man. Seemingly self-contained; and impartial and detached voice, it becomes apparent that Adamsberg is far from emotionally detached - rather, he is suffering for the loss of his erstwhile lover and suspected love of his life. We see that he is almost tormented by his ability to discover the culpable; that he does not feel in control of his ability, rather, that he is at the mercy of it. The facts, the evidence, anything with substance doesn't seem to register with Adamsberg; it is the seemingly inconsequential, the small talk, the chit chat, instinct and gut feelings that drive his purpose.

Vargas trumpets her arrival on the crime writers' scene with The Chalk Circle Man. There is no doubting her intention to take the genre by the scruff of its neck and turn it on its head. This is no ordinary crime novel; Adamsberg is no ordinary gendarme and no one who reads Vargas will ever be able to go back to anyone else. She is simply outstanding - an incredible writer with an outlandish amount of talent. We cannot recommend Vargas highly enough!


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