Monday, 18 May 2009

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand by Fred Vargas

Murders from 1943 to 2003 that all have murder wounds in common, three punctures like a trident. Commissair Jean Baptiste Adamsberg thinks it is the same killer, Judge Fulgence, but he has been dead for over 15 years. Whoever he tries to convince tells him to stop wasting their time. Each murder has been solved and someone has been convicted, despite the accused not remembering anything. Commissaire Adamsberg has a personal interest - his brother's girlfriend was killed, and his brother would have been convicted, if Adamsberg had not got rid of some of the evidence.

The first few chapters are rather contrived, as Vargas sets up the characters and a fresh murder, but once we fly from Paris and arrive in Canada the plot and prose start to flow. Before long Adamsburg is on the run, accused of a murder with three puncture wounds! He cannot bear to think he has committed this crime, but there are hours he cannot remember after a drinking binge, and he found blood on his hands. The key is to return to France and solve the murder of The Trident.

Commissair Adamsberg is a detective who relies on intuition and imagination whereas his subordinate, and friend, Captaine Danglard is intellectual and logical. A nice yin/yang balance in a detective novel. As a man on the run he is help in his quest by a handful of people and a different type of computer hacker.

Vargas's characterisation of the main and secondary characters is deft and she can capture the essence of a place in a few sentences. An enjoyable, lyrical and page turning read, admirably translated by Sian Reynolds. I look forward to reading more Vargas. Apparently this is number five in the Adamsberg series but the first I have read.

Additional Info

The book won the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger Award.

The French title is 'Sous Les Vents De Neptune' (Under Neptune's Winds) and the origin of the English title is from Macbeth "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood from my hands". Love whoever came up with that.

The book has recently been made into a film "Sous Les Vents De Neptune" which I think is a made for TV movie. It has an interesting cast...


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