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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fred Vargas - The Chalk-Circle Man
"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...
Published on 19 Mar 2009 by RachelWalker

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I hoped
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...
Published on 28 April 2009 by Bluebell


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fred Vargas - The Chalk-Circle Man, 19 Mar 2009
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Chalk Circle Man (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. There are great pleasures to be had in the length and depth of the later novels, the greater complexities of the plots, but that doesn't detract from what is a perfect introduction to the Adamsberg series, and introduction that focuses on the very aspects of her writing that people seem to like: the sheer innovative nature of her bizarre plots, and the fascinating character of the protagonist himself, a dreamy, intelligent, disorganised detective who has scant regard for concrete clues and steers cases based on his own sometimes inexplicable hunches. The Chalk Circle Man is direct, focused, funny and is a kind of condensed Vargas primer. An ideal place to start, really, as befits the novel in a series! There are some other superb eccentrics as well, namely the marine biologist and the blind man, both as forthright as each other, who forge an unlikely friendship and hold crucial clues for Adamsberg's investigation. It's no chore at all to spend portions of time away from Adamsberg and with these two other oddballs instead.

Vargas's novels have a specific kind of appeal: they are, of course, superbly constructed puzzles, but above all they're wholly original crime novels with a different kind of outlook on the form: they're a bit bonkers, a bit maddening, a lot gripping, and vastly entertaining. They're not for people who demand gritty realism from their crime fiction, but as exercises in the flightful pleasure of reading a crime novel written from a slightly different angle, they are the absolute best you can find. A superb first entry, as series go.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the world of Adamsburg and Vargas, 19 Oct 2009
By 
L. J. Roberts (Oakland, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Chalk Circle Man (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. However, once accustomed to her style, I find I am addicted.

THE CHALK CIRCLE MAN (Pol. Proc-Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg-Paris-Cont) - VG
Vargas, Fred - 1st in series
Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2009, US Hardcover, ISBN: 9780307396877
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I hoped, 28 April 2009
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Chalk Circle Man (Paperback)
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Early signs, 2 May 2010
By 
John S. McDonald (Norwich,England) - See all my reviews
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While this was the first novel in what has become an intriguing series,it probably is not the place to start. For here we encounter in characters,mood and quirkiness key apects and features of Vargas'later and more developed Parisian policier novels. Familiarity with those later and more succesful texts makes this an interesting read,a first draft,for the later more rewarding reads that we have already experienced. It has undoubtedly been published to cash in on the plaudits the later novels have deservedly received.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better in French, 18 Dec 2012
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars intuitive detective, 14 Jun 2011
By 
Graham R. Hill (Ilkley) - See all my reviews
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Personally I prefer my detectives to employ ratiocination rather than guesswork. Adamsberg's intuition however has more to do with his mind taking a short cut based on experience than anything psychic and the tightly drawn plot makes sense and keeps one interested although it isn't in any way realistic. Even the date at which it is set is mysteriously vague; before CCTV or DNA testing certainly. In the hands of a lesser writer this collection of outlandish characters and unlikely events could have come across as simply clever for its own sake, but Vargas and her translator carry it off stylishly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "One should be sparing with one's contempt, because of the large number of those in need of it.", 21 Dec 2010
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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Another female writer hiding behind a man's name, Fred Vargas is otherwise unconventional having a light touch, rather like a Kate Atkinson, but with the cool of French ambience, a Gauloise hanging from the corner of her mouth. You can almost taste the Seine in every superbly translated word (the honours go to Sian Reynolds).

This is the first of the Adamsberg books, a master detective with a charming way of intuiting all the important elements of any case and getting everything right - how annoying for the flic who only has logic and deduction to go by! Much of it might not bear too much examination - elaborate plots, the terrible faux pas' of the initial suspect, the long alleyway of a delightful cul-de-sac, the wonderful insouciance of a puzzle-lover. Instinctively, you will love or hate the cavalier way Vargas develops her rationale - she floats on air, she dances before you entrancingly in much the same way that Adamsberg's petite cherie swirls away in the smoky night air.

It's right up my street and Fred Vargas is a true original.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fine example of surreal detection, 24 July 2009
By 
Feanor (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Chalk Circle Man (Paperback)
Few writers are better than Fred Vargas, archaeologist-historian-turned-crime-novelist-of-class. Several of her later books featuring the ethereal detective Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg have been translated into English, and recently, this, the very first one in the series was rendered into English as well. (There was a cri-de-coeur recently about this phenomenon of out-of-order release of translations, and I find it quite irritating that I am unable to follow the development of a character from start to finish just because publishers can't be bothered to publish chronologically. This is especially egregious when the full series is already available in the original language, and still they are translated at random.) The Chalk Circle Man introduces the provincial detective-turned-Parisian-commissioner who can sense evil in people and prefers to doodle instead of following up on clues and interrogating suspects. His evident success (summed up by one of his rivals as ''You sit around daydreaming, staring at the wall, or doodling on a bit of paper as if you had all the time and knowledge in the world, and then one day you swan in, cool as a cucumber, and say "Arrest the priest. He strangled the child to stop him talking."') has attracted various curious individuals, each more peculiar than the other, and all of them in some circumstantial way involved in the latest puzzle that is attracting his attention. All of Paris is agog by a street artist who goes about drawing perfect chalk circles on pavements in various arrondissements, enclosing some object or the other within them - a hat, a mouse, a lighter. Is this the latest break-out art? Adamsberg senses cruelty, however, and keeps alert to any developments, and is proved right when a murdered woman is found one day within one such circle. The investigation then splits into competing hypotheses - is the chalk-circle man responsible for the death? Or is someone following him around to piggy-back off those circles and implicate him? This is a detective novel with a surreal premise: unlike Poirot who uses strict logic, or Van Veeteren, who is a meticulous footpad, Adamsberg arrives at his conclusions mystically, and expects his deputy Danglard to fill in the gaps. Good fun, though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing Commissaire Adamsberg, 13 Dec 2013
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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First published in France in 1996, this is the first book in the 'Commissaire Adamsberg Series'. Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg has recently arrived in Paris to work in the 5th Arrondissement in his newly promoted rank of commissaire. As we first meet him he is just wrapping up a murder case, but what has grabbed his attention is the appearance of blue chalk circles with the inscription 'Victor, woe's in store,what are you out here for?' appearing around Paris. To all intents and purposes these chalk circles seem relatively innocuous, after all they are around items such as a doll's head, and other things; a form of street art if you will. To Adamsberg though these are a portent of worse things to come.

As murdered bodies start to turn up in the chalk circles Adamsberg is on the case, but is the producer of the circles the same person as the murderer? With a host of eccentric characters, a weird crime and some humour, this book marks the way the other Adamsberg books read, and is an ideal introduction to this most eccentric and enigmatic of detectives.

Like the other Adamsberg books I have read this was a real joy to get to grips with. If you are looking for something a bit different and quirky in your crime fiction, then this could be just the thing you are looking for.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars But would I read another?, 16 Sep 2013
By 
R. Phillips "seagull" (south coast) - See all my reviews
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I had already given up on one Fred Vargas / Adamsburg story but a friend raves about her books so I tried this, Adamsburg's debut. Easy to read, some soild start background details established, it is intriguing: Adamsburg is not the conventional cop...he tends to smile enigmatically driving readers (well, me if not my friend) and colleagues to distraction. Sadly, none of the characters engaged me and the story was only 'quite' compelling although the denouement was a surprise. I have certainly been more entertained but I'm not sure if I will actively seek out another.
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The Chalk Circle Man
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