Top critical review
One person found this helpful
OK book in here somewhere just very well hidden
on 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!!