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!
This is an extraordinary book that has a different feel and flavour to any of the crime-fiction I've read of late.
Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg has just been appointed as Commissaireof the police headquarters in Paris' 5th arrondissement. He's a small town boy arriving in the city as if by accident, who has the ability to solve crimes by using his intuitions, senses and uncanny thought-processes and has a reputation based upon that. For the logic and collection of evidence, he relies upon his team. After solving a murder by working on gut-feeling, he wins over the wonderful Danglard and from then on they begin to build an unusual relationship based upon like and mutual respect.
When the chalk circles of the title begin to appear around seemingly random objects across Paris, Jean-Baptiste takes an interest. He senses that the objects contained within the circles are going to become bigger and that there's something sinister at hand. Danglard is detailed the job of keeping in touch with the circles as they appear, which is good because he's a morning person - afternoon's tend to be slightly less efficient due to the consumption of wine. There's a wonderful humour to the way the killing is introduced and the case proper begins:
`Two circles were discovered: In the rue l'Abbe-de-l'Epee was the cork from a wine bottle, and in the rue Pierre-et-Maire-Curie, in the 5th Arrondissement, lay a woman with her throat cut, staring up at the sky.'
The joy of this book lies in the characters living within it and in the ambience created.
It's seductive. Gently paced. Stimulates all of the senses.
Jean-Baptiste is a wonderful creation. He's handsomely ugly with an inner beauty that influences all those around him. He's an optimistic fatalist who `always set out feeling hopeful and disappointment was invariable painful.' And how's this for a superb description of a man - `Adamsberg was open to every wind, like a cabin made of rough planks, letting his brain receive fresh air...you could imagine that everything that went in through his ears, eyes and nose - smoke, colours, paper rustling - caused a draught to whistle through his thoughts and stopped them solidifying.'
Danglard is also a gem. He has 5 children to look after without help, bottles of wine to keep him sane, a love of information and logic and he talks his cases through with his kids when others might choose fairytales.
As if these two alone weren't enough, there's a great supporting cast:
Mathilde is a marine biologist who collects oddities, describes the world with reference to the sea, follows people like they're objects of study and remains sexy in spite of her years.
Charles Reyer is the `beautiful blind man' who Mathilde `collects'. He's bitter and awkward and likes to go up to seeing folk to ask if he can help them across the road.
Clemence Valmont is another of Mathilde's oddities. She's old, but is constantly on the lookout for a husband through the lonely hearts. Here's one she decides not to reply to:
`M. 66. Well-preserved, large appetite, small pension, would like to meet F., not too ugly, small appetite, large pension, to keep each other company on the last stretch of the road.'
What I particularly like about this story is the way the solving of the crime felt almost incidental. There are so many layers of interest that the attention is fully engaged without any feeling that there's a need to rush. It's easy to get hooked to Jean-Baptiste's pace and that makes the read such a pleasure. I often envy the French for those long lunch-breaks when everything slows down and to me, this book has the feel of working slowly through a many -coursed meal where each plate is delicious and you just know whatever is coming next is guaranteed to be brilliant.
I've been a fan of Maigret for almost 30 years now. I'm about to add Jean-Baptiste and Danglard right up there on the shelf next to him.