Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas

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Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: In English after an eighteen year wait, this early Vargas is perhaps too off-kilter – and for such a clever-clever author that's saying a lot.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 256 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Harvill Secker
ISBN: 9781846558191

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Despite losing his official post, Louis Kehlweiler still has the contacts, the drive, and seemingly nothing else to do, to keep him solving crimes. While using a certain park bench to trail a potentially suspect connection between someone nefarious and a politician's relative, he finds something else to spark his interest. Where, hours before, there had just been dog mess, now there is also a human toe bone. Clearly there is a crime, although nobody is reporting anything like having a half a toe missing. But not even he could predict what the simple legwork of trailing passing dog-owners would lead to…

This is an early work in the oeuvre of the lady known as Fred Vargas, whom only the month before I write this was declared male by the Sunday Times, despite her fame, riches and many successful titles. As such it's not in her regular cycle of Adamsberg novels – this is a section of Paris where he has been and gone, and his characters are in their own loop. It's an awkward loop to jump on to, initially – we are never sure what his specific title was, and we're definitely not eased into his situation, with several failed relationships, and perhaps as a substitute a close network of confidants, part-time investigators and real grown-up Baker Street Irregular types.

Soon however we get his character – one hard to fathom by other people, pretty much a la Adamsberg, apart perhaps for the refrain about him needing a beer. But as such it's also awkward until we get the character of the case at hand (or should that be, to foot). It's awkward to discuss the nature of the crime, or even where it happens, as all that comes too far into the book. That's partly the point – this hero has connections, intellect and so on of a cop or private eye, but is neither, and so his procedural is bound to be different to what we're normally used to. There must be room for other people to enjoy this early section of the book more than I did.

Once the set-up is eventually established, and it's a case of Louis and friends nailing the culprit, we're on much more familiar Vargas territory, of wacky coincidences, incredibly successful investigators making incredibly successful connections between the most obscure elements, and more. There's a big 'more' here in the shape of a pet toad, which it's impossible to ignore when reviewing this book. Surely a Bufo Bufo called Bufo living in a coat pocket, or tormenting other characters by hanging out in a hotel bathroom, is just a stretch too far? It's very handy for me, however – if you require a bizarre window into crime-solving from a mistress of the art, albeit not quite in the swing of things this early in her career, then you know what to do. Likewise if you recognise this as perhaps just a little too up-itself and deliberately obtuse. In this case I can be neither witness for the defence or the accuser, just present the facts. I for one will be checking the original publication date in future Vargas books, and welcoming the new much more than the few remaining catch-ups.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Dogs' mess also plays a part - believe it or not - in A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan. Proof you can rely on the Bookbag for pointing out trends in crime fiction.

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Buy Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas at


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