Thursday, April 09, 2020

This Poison Will Remain

This Poison Will Remain / Fred Vargas
trans. from the French by Sian Reynolds
London: Harvill Secker, 2019, c2017.
409 p.
The most recent Adamsberg entry is another creatively plotted mystery. Once again, something happens that seems cut and dried: a number of older men across France have died from spider bites, from the dangerous brown recluse.

Only Adamsberg intuits a deeper link among these deaths, and is convinced that there is a creative killer on the loose. Is he right? Of course, he is always right.

He visits the National Museum of Natural History for some expert advice on brown recluses, and while waiting there, meets an eccentric older woman who discusses the cases with him and notes that all three of the men who have already died were acquainted from childhood, as wards of a local orphanage - they were also part of a gang of tough boys calling themselves the Band of Recluses. Does this give him enough to work with? Pretty much. 

The plot is complex, with lots of back story given. While the mystery and the murder weapon are both slightly over the top, the motive is powerful and modern. Vargas does not shy away from discussing terrible events or including themes of violence and retribution in her novels. 

There is a great deal of sexual violence in this story; while it isn't shown graphically, it is both implied and clearly described as something occurring in the past. Adamsberg finally puts it together, and gets a clear picture of what is driving these revenge killings. The reader feels sympathetic to the murderer, though, after going through the whole story -- who wouldn't want these cretins punished? Fortunately, Vargas leaves this moral dilemma in the story as well, so the reader can engage with the philosophical issues raised and make their own judgements about the crime and about Adamsberg's team and their decisions. 

Vargas always has plots that appear bizarre but generally work within the book. She is highly educated, with degrees in history, archeology and zoology, and her expertise really shows here. The disparate elements of this mystery are drawn together into a shocking ending. This was a great entry in this enjoyable series. 


  1. I'm looking forward to reading this one...if my library ever reopens. :)

    1. I hope things settle down sooner rather than later. But do you read ebooks/audio? Your library's online collection might have some of these titles.


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