The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

The Chalk Circle Man

Book Review:  The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

For many Parisians, the blue chalk circles appearing on the pavement in various places about the city are an entertaining curiosity.  The objects circled aren’t all that noteworthy and don’t seem to have anything in common — paper clips, a handbag, an orange, and a twig to name a few.  Is it a prank, a ploy for attention, a commentary on the detritus of our lives?  Speculation abounds and many try to catch the elusive chalk circle man in the act to no avail.  Commissaire Adamsberg’s instincts tell him that it won’t be long before a dead body is encircled by the blue outline — and, as usual, his instincts are correct.

The first in a series, this novel stands out for its unusual, odd characters.  New to the 5th arrondissement, Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg has a reputation for having an uncanny ability to solve unsolvable cases.  Adamsberg works best when he allows his minder to wander — he shows up when he shows up, he leaves when he leaves, he never seems to give anyone his full attention, and he doodles constantly.  This is frustrating for his new colleagues, particularly Adrien Danglard.  Danglard is very much a by-the-book detective although he has his own issues, namely with drink.  And then there’s Mathilde.  Mathilde has a curt approach and a tender heart; she also has a tendency to follow strangers just for the curiosity of it.  Mathilde has seen the chalk circle man — and he has seen her.

It was an interesting read and Vargas is exceptional at creating vivid characters but I don’t know if I will continue the series.  Adamsberg may be a bit too eccentric for me — I don’t dislike him but I don’t like him either.  I found his bizarre relationship with Camille a bit creepy.  Still, if you like quirky characters, this is an excellent series to try.

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