From Publishers Weekly
The outstanding fourth whodunit to be made available in the U.S. from Vargas (Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand) makes its easy to see why shes twice won the CWAs International Dagger Award. Paris Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, an endearing oddball sleuth in the tradition of John Dickson Carrs Henry Merrivale, is convinced that the two narcotics dealers recently found with slit throats werent the victims of business rivals, relying largely on his intuition and the unexplained presence of dirt under the dead mens fingernails. Adamsbergs dogged pursuit of small details leads him to a series of unusual mutilations of wild deer as well as to a serial killer who targets virgins and may be seeking the ingredients to an elixir for eternal life. While the final twist will be less than shocking to some readers, the immensely enjoyable prose, seasoned liberally with humor, should help the author gain the larger American audience she deserves.
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In her fourth Commissaire Adamsberg mystery, Vargas overloads her story with so many quirky, fascinating characters, and so many intermingled subplots, as to nearly sink an otherwise seaworthy ship. And, yet, somehow, everything stays afloat in the end, a testament to one of the crime genre’s most inventive writers. It begins quietly enough with two murdered thugs; a drug deal gone bad? Then Adamsberg finds himself in Normandy, sharing a glass with a group of idiosyncratic locals who report on the peculiar mutilation of a stag in the nearby forest. Relying as always on intuition, Adamsberg stumbles his way from thugs and stags to a bizarre case involving a serial killer intent on achieving immortality by following a medieval formula (which requires, among other things, securing a small bone from a pig’s snout). The details would be overwhelming if they weren’t all so fascinating, and the enormous cast would be dizzying if each one of them wasn’t so richly portrayed. Is there too much going on here? Certainly, but will Vargas’ growing legion of fans care? Not a whit. --Bill Ott