A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas and Sian Reynolds (translator)

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A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas and Sian Reynolds (translator)

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Truly a thriller of two halves, as one plods but the other visits other crime fiction scenes in Europe. We are used to Vargas books being wholly enjoyable, however.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9781784702625

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It takes just one policeman's iota of doubt, that an elderly woman found dead in her bath with her wrists slit was not actual suicide but murder instead, for Commissaire Adamsberg to become involved. The woman, known to be dying, had struggled to get a letter posted in the days before her death – and when the recipient is found out it immediately leads to another murder disguised as suicide, and more deaths are to come. All indications (or at least those that can be understood) point to a hushed-up murder and rape on a remote and isolated Icelandic island ten years previously, but Adamsberg and his team will soon be working on the thinking that the whole truth is much more peculiar, and harder to solve than that…

This is the eighth Adamsberg book, and I'm afraid to say it was the least satisfactory. The blurb doesn't go too far in discussing what the 'whole truth' I referred to might be, so I won't go, but suffice it to say it was too French. Too French, too historical, too cultured perhaps, and while it has an intriguing premise, the way it's handled here really makes it hard for me to imagine it travelling to other territories. It certainly didn't gel with me as something of interest, meaning I was almost thinking of doing something very unexpected – speed-reading Fred Vargas.

There were, however, a few things stopping me from doing that. Past experience is one – this author certainly can put a great thriller together, and she has been incredibly influential, certainly in French crime circles if nowhere else; and the other is her style. She is not really a skippable author, as her writing can be quite dense – a friendly, accessible dense, but dense all the same. Certainly, Adamsberg is a rich character, what with his airy-fairy ways of thinking outside the box, shooting the breeze at night with his neighbour or his son to try and work mentally on the case, wearing two stopped watches at one and the same time, and so on. Alongside him are a host of other good characters, from the heavily cultured brainbox, to the woman mountain, to the narcoleptic one often curled up asleep like the dormouse in Alice. These books feature so much detail at times, you can never work out in advance which will be used for a call-back later on, and which is merely incidental, character-building, to be mentioned once and forgotten.

I can't really go into the ins and outs of which sections here I liked and didn't, for want of keeping the secrets of the story. But I repeat there was a whole thread to the situation I just didn't enjoy reading about, beyond some mild, initial curiosity – even if it can be said to match anything else that's equally quirky about this whimsical but deadly serious series. While Ms Vargas' books are inherently globally readable, this one then did suffer as being too French in subject. The flipside of that, then, is the other half of the investigation – proving that Adamsberg can fit in with the best in Icelandic noir and still come out in good light. On the balance that just about makes me feel like recommending this book to its potential fans, but with provisos.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

If, like me, it's the remote Icelandic island that you relish most about this, then you would enjoy Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Victoria Cribb (translator). Sian Reynolds also translated Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet.

Fred Vargas' Commissaire Adamsberg series in Chronological Order

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Buy A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas and Sian Reynolds (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas and Sian Reynolds (translator) at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas and Sian Reynolds (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas and Sian Reynolds (translator) at Amazon.com.


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