An Uncertain Place

A Commissaire Adamsberg Mystery
An Uncertain Place: A Commissaire Adamsberg Mystery. Penguin. Nov. 2011. c.408p. tr. from French by Siân Reynolds. ISBN 9780143120049. pap. $15. M
In London for a police conference, Commissaire Adamsberg (This Night's Foul Work) and his colleague Commandant Danglard join a Scotland Yard call to Highgate Cemetery; nine pairs of shoes with severed feet inside have been discovered at its entrance. Back in Paris a few days later, Adamsberg is called to a gruesome crime scene in which the victim has been dismembered and pulverized. Could this be related to the mysterious feet in London? A connection is soon found that leads the commissaire to Serbia and a centuries-old family feud involving vampires. Along the way, the introspective and intuitive Adamsberg helps deliver kittens, receives surprising news about his past, and learns to appreciate Serbian cuisine. As with her five previous mysteries, Vargas here explores humanity's devilish side, mixing bizarre, surreal crimes and a creepy atmosphere with well-drawn, idiosyncratic characters and lots of humor. How can you resist a crime squad that keeps a stash of wine in the office?
VERDICT A nice Gallic counterpart to Christopher Fowler's very English "Peculiar Crimes Unit" series, which also hints at the supernatural and stars eccentric sleuths. Readers should suspend their disbelief at Vargas's dizzying array of plot twists and coincidences and just enjoy the roller-coaster ride. Great fun!
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