Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Fred Vargas is great

I just read Have Mercy on Us All, which might be described as a thriller about the black plague; I liked it even more than Seeking Whom He May Devour, though that was very good too. Strengths/commonalities of both books: an attractive detective character, a sort of anti-Sherlock Holmes because he works intuitively but with the Holmes-style ability to see things everyone else can't; excellent writing style (slightly marred in the translations by the occasional very-English weird Anglicism, but that's OK; I imagine the American editions will be newly translated, or at least revised?); cluster of working-class characters from widely divergent backgrounds, persuasively characterized; interest in the dynamic of a small society under threat from superstition as much as from violence, and in what makes certain people resist superstitious belief and group mentalities rather than succumbing to mass panic. Also, plague and werewolves; who wouldn't like them? I will look forward to reading the others, though I'm too lazy to read them in French: I'll wait for the translations.


  1. Oh, dear -- another new author to add to my list...

  2. Although it was released a year later, I think DEVOUR precedes HAVE MERCY in the series, though I still have to read the earlier book (and whatever else is translated, hopefully soon!)

    BTW have you read Karin Fossum's books? Those are excellent as well.

  3. Yes, "Devour" clearly comes before "Have Mercy."

    I read "Don't Look Back" but somehow didn't take to it. However I will get a few more from the library and see what I think. I have never liked Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine very much, and Fossum sort of had that feel for me, whereas what I like about Vargas is the more demented intellectual approach, and the characters are much more attractive. Hmmm...