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3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Seeking Whom He May Devour (Commissaire Adamsberg)
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on 28 May 2017
have just ordered the third in the series. Especially liked this book because I live close to the initial action and am familiar with the other places..
Well written and , in places, amusing.
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on 18 February 2009
I was looking forward to reading this book, as the author is new to me, I enjoy the genre, love and know France, and am familiar with the region. But how to get through a book with such a clunking translation? Mr Bellos fails to find a consistent voice for the characters, who wander from bizarre slang ("you'll be in the slammer for the rest of your twatty lives") to Edwardian formality ("swithering"??). There also seems to be indecision on whether to make this UK English of the "old chap" variety, or to use Americanisms like "wrench" (as opposed to "spanner") and "fresh-painted". And at times you can almost see the translator writhing to force a paragraph from French into what he takes for English:"She can pick whomever she wants. Whoever she likes best."
This may sound like nit-picking, but it truly spoiled my enjoyment of this book, as the lumpen translation jars so frequently.
As to the story itself, well I found it rather slow, and the insistence on character quirks (e.g. the dictionary quotations) become painful after a while. I might try another, based on the other reviews here, but it will have to be in the original to have any chance at all.
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on 31 October 2012
Don't expect this to be a conventional crime novel. This is one of those whodunnits in which the main point of the story isn't who actually did it. It's better to journey than to arrive - even, as in this case, with two of the oddest people you've ever met in a stinking, clapped-out cattle truck. The mysterious savaging of first the sheep and then the human beings is really just an excuse for a whacky, whimsical fantasy. The denoument is merely a convention - what kept me turning the pages (and I did keep turning them) was the pleasure of inhabiting the dream-like world Fred Vargas always manages to create.

The translator comes in for a lot of stick from other reviewers and, sadly, it's easy to see why. The colloquialisms creak. Who, in the real world (or even on the fantastical planet Vargas) talks about "'copters"? If you want to abbreviate helicopters, it's "choppers". The best translations of Vargas' books are by Sian Reynolds. I have to say read the ones translated by her first and then the other ones. By that point if, like me, you're totally absorbed in and enchanted by the series, you'll let the poor old translator off. I started with The Chalk Circle Man. Not only could I not put it down but from then on I couldn't wait to get hold of the next Commissaire Adamsberg book.
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VINE VOICEon 10 January 2011
as a big fan of Vargas and Adamsberg this sadly disappointed me - where This Night's Cruel Work and others are the sublime bordering the ridiculous, this has crossed the border into ridiculous and outstayed its welcome. as others have suggested, the translator David Bellos must take a deal of the blame - his stilted and over literal interpretations are tedious and i suspect destroy much of the whimsical humour and dialogue - the title is the first example of this - grammatically correct but a bit formal.
Adamsberg doesn't really make a proper appearance in the plot until over half way through and while vargas other characters are quirky and entertaining the ludicrous werewolf hunt they are on rather takes any suspense out of the story. "Chilling and slick" it says on the cover - i think they left out the word "Not" from the Times quotation. Even the subplot is poorly handled and the book ends more in slapstick than cliffhanger. Readable but the worst in the Adamsberg canon.
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on 28 June 2012
I like Fred Vargas's quirky style and her flic Commissaire Adamsberg who doesn't exactly do everything by the book, and who might, for instance, spend a lot of time thinking - and not always about the case he is currently engaged upon. There is some moaning about the translation of this book on the Amazon site and yes, there were one or two moments that didn't add up. For instance on page 85 internal consciousnesses change from Camille's to Johnstone's without any signifier. Camille begins the thought and Johnstone ends it. Nice trick if you can do it, but since neither Camille or Johnstone are telephathic it just knocks you sideways a bit. There are other small niggles, but once the plot takes hold it becomes too enthralling to bother with the odd bit of misplaced grammar.

The plot involves Camille, Adamsberg's lost love, who comes to the fore because the mountain fastness in which she is living is also home to a newly introduced pack of wolves. Camille is staying with her friend Suzanne and her adopted son, plus Watchee, her rather strange but entirely honourable shepherd. Well then - wolves, sheep - what do you think? Only this concerns a monstrous wolf that no one has seen - because, so the rumour goes, he's a werewolf. Before long they are haring off on the chase of this phenomena, along with Camille's new boyfriend the hunky Canadian Laurence Johnstone. Adamsberg might be thought to feel his nose being put out of joint, but he's also too busy trying to dodge a crazy red-haired girl who believes he has killed her lover. He did, but not on purpose.

This is great stuff. Some of it throwing up wild scenarios that seem to go nowhere, but Vargas works her magic, not least her brilliant characterisations, and I was rapt for every murderous moment.
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on 8 March 2008
I loved the two Fred Vargas books translated by Sian Reynolds(The Three Evangelists & Wash This Blood...) which I read before this and I wanted to love this one as much but was regularly distracted by the clunking translation by David Bellos. The prose was often too flat and lumpen to carry the wit and verve of this writer's imagination, the so-called idioms either dated or simply opaque. I imagine she is tricky to translate - but I'm glad I didn't read this one first because, despite its intriguing mystery and Jaques Tati-like cast of characters, I might have attributed the flawed prose to Fred herself and have been put off her other works.
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VINE VOICEon 7 February 2013
This is a translation so it is difficult to comment on whether some aspects of the book are the fault of the author or the narrator but someone must take the responsiblity.
The writing is straight forward which should make it an easy read but I found it took a long time as the language and style is very jarring.
All through the characters are explained well and they manage to avoid some very stupid plot twists which often happen in this type of book. Has to be said though that I found it hard to find any level of engagement with the characters - Soliman was just impossible, Watchee was interesting but then behaved out of character.
Oddly, I struggled to place the time setting of the story. At some points the technology is very advanced but then they have difficulty with a mobile which doesn't fit. There is also a huge opportunity missed with the geographical setting - this area is beautiful and the landscape should be a bigger part of the book than it is, had this happened then the atmosphere would have been more appropriate to the plot. Also more time should have been given to the mountain communities with their beliefs, culture and legends.
I thought the translation was terrible, to the point that I had to look up the person who did it as I was convinced that they could not have been a native English speaker, although it turns out she is. Some examples "Nobody said anything, pregnantly." - what is this about??? - "You'll be in the slammer for the rest of your twatty lives" - are we in the London East End in the 1960s?? The plot is OK but completely spoilt by the clumsy language around it.
A link is established with Adamsberg early in the plot but then not explored until we almost forget about him. As a character, he stands out from the rest as having some interest (although I was very curious how he could drop his normal day job so easily and what is the distraction with the woman trying to kiil him?). He does bring the book to life when he gets involved and the other characters feed off him. With him in the plot, the book develops into a fairly standard police novel, the final third is much more readable than the rest of the book but I didn't find the procedures believable.
At the end there is a full explanation by way of a police statement which was a great way to wind up the story, there should be more endings like this in crime fiction.
Reading this for a book club, I had to plod on with it (I'd have put it down after a few pages normally) and eventually got the feeling that there was an interesting story hidden away, trouble is that it was very well hidden. Unless you are already a fan of Fred Vargas I would recommend you pass this one by - I won't pick up any more of hers!!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 February 2009
Whether any or most of the blame can be laid at the feet of the translator Heaven only knows but this has to be one of the most irritating books I've ever read. It's liberally sprinkled with clichéd Hollywood terms, like referring to the police as `flics', not to mention clichéd characters with clichéd attitudes: when Vargas does try to invest a character with a degree of originality she renders them unconvincingly: the, naturally intelligent and astonishingly beautiful, female love interest, a composer of soap opera theme tunes who earns her real living as a plumber and spends much of her spare time `reading' plumbing supply catalogues, idolizes her ex-lover, the naturally charismatic, enigmatic but sensitive `hero' cop but then shacks up with a big, boring, brain-dead and bear loving lumberjack type who duly lumbers his way through the action, such as it is, p*ssing off other characters and the reader alike. The `hero' doesn't begin to make a real contribution to the action until about a third of the way through: from that point on it does become moderately more interesting but by then the only incentive for staying with it is to hope that the wolf has got enough about him to rip through his motley pursuers and put everyone out of their misery.
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VINE VOICEon 6 July 2011
If you are expecting a 'traditional' crime read then I would think twice about reading Fred Vargas. But if you are looking for something totally different, that is quirky and contains elements of a supernatural feel (in the loosest sense) then you should definitely give her ago.

In Commissaire Adamsberg character she has created a character who is nothing like your usual detective/policeman. He is not a 'action' hero type instead he is thoughtful, withdrawn, internal, and in many senses odd (the closest comparison I can think of is Holmes, but Holmes does action!)

In this the third novel in the series (at the moment there are 6 translated into English and a graphic novel, a 7th is being released in 2011) a village in the French Alps comes under attack from a wolf. However when a killing of a human occurs the suggestion of a werewolf being at large spreads. Two of the villagers and an old love of Adamsberg - Camille Forestier go on a journey to hunt down the man/wolf. They find themselves having to call on Adamsberg to assist in their search.

I can imagine that Vargas isn't to everybody's taste, but she's hooked me! I would certainly recommend giving her a go if you are looking for something other than the traditional fayre of crime writing.
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VINE VOICEon 16 February 2011
Fred Vargas' series of novels featuring Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg are marked by unusual, even bizarre, plots and a highly eccentric central character. They are, however, in my mind, extremely enjoyable for this and because they're so different from other crime fiction. This novel has a typically dark plot: a series of raids on flocks of sheep and several murders in rural France are soon reckoned, by local superstition, to be the work of a werewolf, or, slightly less outrageously, a disturbed individual who has control of a large wolf. Adamsberg doesn't really feature much until the last third of the book; up until that point, the hunt for the killer is maintained by a bizarre trio, Soliman, adopted son of the first victim, Watchee, a taciturn shepherd, and the enigmatic Camille, Adamsberg's former lover, who eventually draws him directly into the case. The plot unwinds slowly, as we follow their attempts to track the killer, along with Adamsberg's unconventional thinking, which ultimately leads to a dramatic conclusion. Warmly recommended.
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