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The Chalk Circle Man Hardcover – 6 Jan 2009

48 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Random House of Canada Ltd (6 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307396878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307396877
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.5 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 556,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Rich and witty" (Independent)

"She wants to surprise, unsettle, frustrate and amuse - and succeeds in writing a gripping novel that takes readers out of their comfort zones" (The Scotsman)

"The hottest property in contemporary crime fiction" (Guardian)

"The novel shows Vargas in riveting form right from the start of her writing career" (The Times)

"Witty, inventive and vaguely surreal, this novel should win over the most diehard crime fiction fans" (Melissa McClemets Financial Times) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"The wonderful Commissaire Adamsberg novels by... Fred Vargas have been runaway successes in Britain." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
"The Chalk Circle Man" is the very welcome first novel of Vargas' Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg series, the eccentric French series featuring an eccentric French policeman who investigates by intuition and instinct, and arrests people against logic. And always gets his man.

Mysterious chalk circles have started to appear on the streets of Paris. Drawn overnight, they contain increasingly bizarre objects: a pigeon's foot, cigarette lighters, a hat, a doll's head. Are they there to draw attention to discarded rubbish? Or does the artist put the items inside the circles? Is it for amusement, or is it for something more sinister? Adamsberg tends towards the latter option, and, being the man he is, keeps a close eye on the newspaper reports, which treat the circles as a silly practical joke. That is, they do until something far more sinister turns up in one of the blue circles: the body of a woman with her throat cut. Adamsberg's instincts are proved right, and he begins digging into the case in earnest. But his crucial question is: is the blue chalk circle man the killer, or is the killer a clever opportunist who has spotted a great moment to muddy some waters?

By now, anyone familiar with Vargas' work will not be remotely surprised by such a quirky synopsis, and, indeed, would probably be delighted to read something so seemingly bizarre! And I don't think they'd be disappointed, because the first Adamsberg novel is a perfect example of Vargas's fiction. It's the shortest of her works so far, the most succinct, the one most unclouded by subplots: Vargas takes her odd starting point by the scruff of the neck and turns it into the most streamlined and straightforward of her novels so far.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bluebell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fred Vargas is a new author for me. The blurbs on the book-cover promised something really good and so starting with high expectations I was disappointed by a rather meandering story with implausible characters. The story lacks tension and didn't, for me at least, make me eager to find out what happens next. I can take some pretty far fetched motives for murder in detective fiction but the final denouement didn't convince me. I found that I was getting bored by the last third of the book. Ruth Rendell, Karen Fossum, PD James, Caroline Graham and Donna Leon in their different ways do crime-writing better and have each created a detective, as a central character, who comes alive in ones mind's eye and with whom one can identifiy. I didn't feel that with Vargas's detective Adamsberg.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
Blue chalk circles begin to appear in the Paris suburbs, each ringing some everyday object. But Commissaire Adamsberg knows it is only a matter of time before a circle contains a murder victim. Unlike his sidekick Danglard, the pragmatic, cynical, stereotypical heavy-drinking inspector deserted by his wife, Adamsberg is not your usual senior police detective. Burdened by his acute intuition, "if only I could be wrong about someone once in a while", he wanders round with his shirt half hanging out, idles around in coffee shops too depressed to go into work, and is only tolerated by colleagues at his new post in Paris because of his astonishing success record in solving cases.

Some of the characters are entertaining, such as the beautiful Mathilde, a famous marine biologist, only really happy deep-sea diving, who spends her time when on dry ground following and observing strangers. I liked her glass table with a built-in aquarium. However, the main characters are all highly eccentric and somewhat unrealistic. I enjoyed some of the quirky dialogue and was prepared to go with the flow of the off-the-wall plot until it reverted abruptly to the kind of trite, contrived thriller overfull of coincidences with a hero who keeps presenting his bemused colleagues with the next piece in the jigsaw, obtained through his latest light-bulb moment.

Some of the English translation is a little oddly worded perhaps partly because the distinctive whimsical quality is hard to capture in English.

Not sure I'll read any more in the series........
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Roberts TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 19 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
First Sentence: Mathilde took out her diary and wrote: "The man sitting next to me has got one hell of a nerve."

Someone is drawing chalk circles on the streets of Paris. Initially, each surrounds such mundane items such as an old handbag, a cotton bud, a one-franc coin, a torch battery, or a screwdriver. Things change the night the circle contains the body of a woman whose throat has been slashed.

I am so glad to have found this series, although I started at the most recent book and am now starting at the first and reading forward. The book has a wonderful voice; you can hear the cadence of French in the dialogue.

The characters are fascinating. Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is a fascinating character and the fact that I can't form a mental picture of him is more fascinating than frustrating. I liked the unexpected connection between math and Adamsburg, which made perfect sense once I thought about it. I enjoyed his observations, realizations and introspections about himself and his idea of a universal uniform. Once he explained his logic for identifying the killer, it made perfect sense as all the clues were there. Adamsberg follows no discernable procedure but seems to `know' things is balanced wonderfully by Insp. Adrien Danglard who believes in the procedure, is raising five children on his own, indulges in too much white wine and discusses his cases with his children. In this book, there is also Mathelde, who brusqueness I enjoyed, as well as the way she sections her week and her various tables, particularly her Cosmic table.

The book's plot is cleverly done with a twist at the end which explains the killer's motive. I am very glad I read other books by this author before this one or I may not have liked it as well.
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