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Posted: November 8, 2020

I cannot get enough of Fred Vargas

Book Review

By Derryll White

Vargas, Fred (1999).  Seeking Whom He May Devour.

“I had stopped loving you,” she said.

“Everything comes to an end,” Adamsberg said.

The reader is 12 chapters into this story before Commisaire Adamsberg makes an appearance. Anyone who has read Fred Vargas will know that Adamsberg’s brain works significantly different from the norm.  He is driven by intuition and a unique ability to harvest meaning from the subconscious. He lets all the facts and detritus flow in and waits for a clear method of attack to pop out.

Fred Vargas has real fun with the mind of Commisaire Adamsberg and how it affects those clustered around him. The reader is led to admire, then treasure, the ways Adamsberg gains access to his subconscious. At some point there is the realization, for some readers, that they access memory and intuition in a similar manner.

The story is sprinkled with unique characters who all contribute to the motion and rhythm of what Adamsberg calls “the road movie.” It is a quest, every bit as bold as Mallory’s Arthur legend or Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The characters pull the reader forward.

Vargas covers the whole gamut of human emotion, nestling most comfortably into the concept of love.  Her nationality speaks clearly here, exposing realities and comforts with situational love that North Americans are unfamiliar with. Love exists in the moment, to be rediscovered if one is very fortunate.

I cannot get enough of Fred Vargas.


Excerpts from the novel:

GOOD COP – He had listened to dozens of crime victims describing their attacker – a real giant, sir, a monster to look at, and his hands were as wide as dinner plates.  Then they’d catch the man, and the victim was often quite disappointed to see just how slight and ordinary his big bad wolf really was.  Twenty-five years in the force had taught Adamsberg to be very wary of ordinary people, and to offer the Hand of friendship to the oversize and misshapen who’d learned from early childhood how to take it easy so that people would leave them alone.  Ordinary people aren’t so wise, they don’t take it easy.

MEMORY – Adamsberg turned off the water and got dry.  Where there’s boots, there’s hope.  He rubbed his hair with a towel and caught his own eye in the bathroom mirror.  He did think of that girl from time to time.  He liked thinking of her, it was as simple as that.  It was the same as going out, or going on a trip, seeing something or learning something new, thinking about something else, or putting up a new set for an evening’s show.  The “Rambling Lady” show.  And when the curtain went down on it he would go back to his usual daydreams, leaving Camille striding along some road or other.  This evening’s show about “The woman who’d settled in Saint-Victor with a man with fair hair” had been much less fun.  He wouldn’t drop off to sleep tonight dreaming of her being in bed with him, as he did from time to time, in gaps between affairs.  Camille was his imaginary stand-by lover when reality failed to come up to snuff.  But right now that blond fellow got in the way.

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.

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