Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec

By Fred Vargas

I reviewed this novel on National Radio today.

Fred Vargas is a French novellist who is a historian and archaeologist. I'd have to say she is one of my favourite writers. The Ghost Riders of Ordebec is her latest novel featuring Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, who is known for his vague and drifting style of detection where he observes and lets his sub-conscious do a lot of the processing until ping, he sees the connections.

Adamsberg is based in Paris, but this case pulls him to the village or Ordebec, where a young woman has a vision of the legendary ghost riders whose visitations over the centuries have been associated with death. Sure enough, the death toll starts to mount. This case also intertwines with a high profile case in Paris where a rich businessman is burned alive in his car and all the evidence points to Mo, a young man with an arson habit, but of course, all is not what it seems.

Fred Vargas finds the most intriguing people as characters in her novels, and this is no different. From Adamsberg's colleagues - Danglard with his encyclopaedic knowledge of everything but a weakness for wine, to Retancourt, an amazonian woman they are all in awe of and slightly afraid of. There is a recovering pigeon, and a pivotal role for Zerk, the adult son Adamsberg only became aware of weeks before. We see the interplay of these two people making acquaintance with each other, while seeing they are from the same mold.

Some readers may find Adamsberg's unusual, mildly eccentric, go with the flow method of crime solving annoying, but I really enjoy it, and combined with great storytelling and a colourful cast of characters, it made for a great read.