The Chalk Circle Man Paperback – Jan 5 2010
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"Like legions of other devoted readers, I've become addicted to the adventures of Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. . . . If you've already discovered Adamsberg, this novel is essential reading. If you haven't, this is the perfect place to begin."
— Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
"If you haven't cottoned on to Vargas's brilliant Adamsberg detective stories, you're missing a treat."
— Scotland on Sunday
"The Chalk Circle Man showcases Vargas' charms as a crime writer — it's hauntingly written, with intensely drawn characters and a plot that smoulders with psychological suspense."
— The Age
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Fred Vargas was born in Paris in 1957. As well as being a bestselling author in France, she is a historian and archaeologist.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Beautifully written, the characters are exquisitely written. In such a short book all the characters, including the secondary ones, are fully developed and real. They are an eccentric bunch of people right from Adamsberg down to the blind man who loves to ask people if they'd like help crossing the street. The crime itself is wonderfully twisty and was impossible for me to figure out. Really an absolutely amazing crime novel crossed with psychological suspense. The characters remind me of Christie and the psychological aspects remind me of Simenon. Brilliance!
Only one thing that bothers me is that the books are not being translated in order. There are already 4 books translated before this, the first one. Strange...
Commissionaire Adamsberg has recently been posted to Paris. His new Inspectors are not quite sure what to make of him. Quite frankly no one is. He always seems distracted, constantly doodles and often just sits there staring into space. And yet -
"...he had solved , one after another, four murders in a way that his colleagues had found uncanny..."
The local press has taken note of chalked blue circles that are popping up accross the city. They encircle discarded rubbish- hats, lighters, whatever seems to be lying around. Adamsberg has a feeling about these circles and instructs his team to photograph and note all of them. His premonition is proven right when a woman's body is found circled in blue chalk.
A local oceanographer and her lodgers - a blind man and an older woman obsessed with personal ads seem to have some connection to the mysterious circles, but they are less than forthcoming. And this is where the character of Adamsberg shines. He waits for things to happen, for connections to show themselves, all to the consternation of his Inspectors.
The Chalk Circle Man is populated by odd and unsettling characters whose minds operate in distinctly non linear fashion. The conversations between these characters is nimble and thought provoking. I was captivated throughout the entire novel. Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is a delightful, quirky, outside the lines sleuth. I will be waiting for the second in this series.
Oh, and Fred Vargas is an award winning female author!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I was impressed with the characters, plotting, writing style (including the excellent translation) and the realistic depiction of French people and culture. For fans of international crime fiction, or Simenon/Maigret, do yourself a favor and read The Chalk Circle Man.
"You sit around daydreaming, staring at the wall, or doodling on a bit of paper as if you had all the time and knowledge in the world, and then one day you swan in, cool as a cucumber, and say 'Arrest the priest. He strangled the child to stop him talking.'"
Great things are expected of him in Paris, but when he focuses on a case that makes everyone else laugh, some begin to wonder if Adamsberg's reputation is all hype.
Almost everyone in Paris is laughing over The Chalk Circle Man, and they scan the newspapers each day to see what bizarre object has been enclosed in a blue chalk circle. Will it be another beer can? Or how about another trombone? Only Adamsberg doesn't think it's funny, and when the next blue chalk circle is around the body of a woman whose throat has been slashed, people begin to realize that the quirky policeman may not be a hayseed after all.
I loved this book. The translation by Sian Reynolds was excellent, and I felt as though I were walking the streets of Paris with Adamsberg. The plot had enough twists and turns in it that, although I'd deduced some things as I read, I was still surprised at the end and laughed with pleasure.
Excellent translation, strong sense of place, nice twisty plot... all those things are important, but it's the characters who stick with me the most. Adamsberg who lets no one keep him from conducting investigations his way. Mathilde, a woman who follows random people through the streets of Paris, observes them, and often takes them under her wing. And Clémence, a septuagenarian who hasn't given up on love and is an avid follower of the "lonely hearts" ads in the newspapers. These characters are what make The Chalk Circle Man sparkle, and they are what make this book memorable.
Comin' through, folks! Comin' through! I've got to get my hands on the second book in this series!
Adamsberg has been in Paris for a fortnight, having just been appointed to Police Headquarters in the 5th arrondissement. Despite his unorthodox investigating methods, he's had an impressive career and now holds the rank of Commisaire. (These methods - which seem to be widely described as they're Zen-like - generally include doodling, daydreaming and staring with the wall, with only cursory glances at things like evidence. However, he's always managed to nab the killer - much to the exasperation of his colleagues). When we first meet him, he's officially investigating the death of a textile merchant. Where Adamsberg's inspectors are searching for an upset client, Adamsberg himself keeps bringing in the victim's stepson for a chat. (You'll never guess who's got it right...)
For no real reason, Adamsberg has started following a quirky story being reported in the newspapers. For the last four months, someone has been drawing chalk circles on the city's pavements and leaving random objects in them. They aren't confined to one district and - while they don't appear every night - there have now been over sixty confirmed incidents. There's also a short message written around the edge of the circle : "Victor, woe's in store, what are you out here for ?" It's widely gossiped about, and there's a great deal of curiousity about who's drawing the circles - but his identity has yet to be revealed. To date, The Chalk Circle Man has been seen as a harmless sort - though, when a dead mouse appears in one of the circles, Adamsberg believes are about to get very messy. He therefore insists the Chalk Circle Man's subsequent work being photographed - something his sidekick, Inspector Danglard, considers a waste of time. However, Adamsberg's intuition is proved right when a dead body turns up in one of the circles...
"Seeking Whom He May Devour" was the first book by Vargas I'd read - I really didn't rate it, but I was willing to give Vargas a second chance. (The laughably bad parts, I figured, were probably down to a poor translation). While I thought "The Chalk Circle Man" was a good deal better, I'll not be in any rush to read anything else she's written; I wouldn't say it was terrible, but there was nothing particularly good about it either. Adamsberg's zen-like attitude was infectious; rather than reading the book, I found myself drifting off - doodling, looking out the windows, staring at the wall... I'm afraid he's a character I just can't take seriously and his constant whittering about his "petite chérie" was an irritation. One of book's supporting characters, Mathilde, was similarly weak : she's basically a stalker who is indulged because she's a famous oceanographer. In short, you'll be missing nothing by reading something else.