A Climate of Fear: A Commissaire Adamsberg Mystery

Penguin. Mar. 2017. 410p. tr. from French by Siân Reynolds. ISBN 9780143109457. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101992234. MYS
An act of kindness by a stranger—mailing a letter dropped by an elderly woman who had collapsed on a Parisian street—sets off a chain of mysterious deaths marked with strange symbols and presumed to be suicides. Asked to investigate by an officer from another arrondissement who suspects murder, Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his Serious Crime squad (last seen in The Ghost Riders of Ordebec) soon find links both to a tragic expedition to Iceland a decade earlier, in which two French tourists were killed, and a secret organization dedicated to reenacting the speeches of Maximilien Robespierre, one of the key figures during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. The unorthodox Adamsberg is stumped by this complex case, which he describes as a tangled knot of seaweed. But to unravel the puzzle, he must travel to the remote Icelandic island where the earlier deaths had occurred, said by locals to be home to a demon.
VERDICT The four-time winner of the CWA International Dagger returns with an entertaining atmospheric mystery, touched with a soupçon of the supernatural. While the plot is convoluted to the point of ridiculousness, the eccentric characters and decidedly French attitude toward policing (a stash of white wine is key to loosening witnesses' tongues) make this an appealing Gallic alternative for fans of Christopher Fowler's "Bryant and May" series. [See Prepub Alert, 10/3/17.]
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