My head was spinning from all the mad twists of this novel - but pleasantly spinning, as from a fast waltz. It never ceases to amaze me how Fred Vargas gets me to buy into her wildly weird plots. This, the newest Commissaire Adamsberg mystery, is as terrific as all the others. Maybe the best yet.
Inspector Adamsberg is chief of the Serious Crimes Squad in Paris. He gets results, but no one can fathom how. His thoughts are as aqueous as mist or sea spray. He's more interested in the odd, irrelevant detail than in hard evidence, which he distrusts. His interrogations sometimes put suspects to sleep.
He drifts into bed with women rather too easily.
His staff - despite idiosyncrasies that include narcolepsy, Anglophilia, eating disorders and compulsive drinking - are amazingly effective under his direction.
Adamsberg encounters two bizarre crimes in this book. While at a conference in London, he and his associates happen upon a collection of 17 shoes holding dead feet, abandoned in front of historic Highgate Cemetery. Back in Paris, Adamsberg gets caught up in a grisly murder. The victim, a wealthy misanthrope, has been minutely dismembered and pulverized.
These two seemingly disparate crimes will lead Adamsberg into terrible confusion and mortal danger. He'll be confronted with vampire legends on the one hand, and dark political doings on the other - and some ghosts from his own past. I'm being deliberately vague about the plot (beyond what the publisher reveals) so as not to deprive readers of any of the shocks ahead.
Vargas is a brilliant writer, especially good at creating absurd characters that we can't help but like and outrageous situations that become totally involving. "An uncertain place" is a real location in this book, but perhaps it's also our fear of, and attraction to, the unknown.
This novel can be read as a stand-alone, but for a full appreciation of Adamsberg and his wacky world, I'd suggest reading the whole series: The Chalk Circle Man; Have Mercy on Us All; Seeking Whom He May Devour; Wash This Blood Clean from My Hands; This Night's Foul Work; and An Uncertain Place.