Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand

Wash This Blood Clean from my Hand / Fred Vargas
trans. from the French by Sian Reynolds
Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2007, c2004.
387 p.
This book, #6 in the Commissaire Adamsberg series, was of particular interest to me as it is partly set in Quebec. If you haven't met Adamsberg yet, he is a French detective who works on an instinctual level to solve various odd crimes in and around Paris. He's not all that likeable, being dreamy and a bit of a disorganized loner. But his team sees results.

His team is just as vital to the series as he is; his second in command Danglard and the indomitable Violet Retancourt are also back in this one -- I really love Retancourt, and there is a lot more of her here. Quite literally a lot more of her...

The plot is a bit over the top: there is a serial killer who Adamsberg has been chasing down since childhood, since his own brother was accused of a murder when they were young, and which Adamsberg was sure was the act of the powerful Judge Fulgence who was of course above suspicion.

The French police send Adamsberg to Quebec for a training program, along with a few members of his team, and hopefully he'll forget about this vendetta while there. But no... while he is there, a girl is murdered with the same style of trident that is the signature of the serial killer he's been after, a man who apparently died in the late 80s. So what is going on? Is someone taunting him? Did he do it himself, from obsession after drinking himself into a blackout? The local police certainly think so, and he has to escape from his colleagues and continue the investigation somehow. His brother also reappears, and entangles the plot even further. 

This is a rich melodrama, but I enjoyed it. I was hoping the Quebec parts would be wonderful, but they feel a bit more like Bon Cop, Bad Cop than a serious look at Quebec policing. A lot of sitcom level stereotyping going on with those characters. Still quite entertaining to read though. With this series you've got to remember that this is a French series and as such has a little more meandering philosophy in its crimes than a straightforward murder/find suspect plot.

As a read that takes your mind off things and creates increasingly outrageous scenarios, this was a winner. I was amused and couldn't stop reading. The solution was so over the top it was movie material! While I wouldn't say that this is the strongest book in this series, I still found it a good read, and an interesting series entry. The characters around Adamsberg contrast strongly enough with his distracted personality that I find there is balance -- Retancourt's earthy common sense and Danglard's high strung intellectualism add to the mix. 

If you haven't tried Vargas yet, start at the beginning with The Chalk Circle Man and go from there. 


  1. I love Fred Vargas' books! I just finished reading A Climate of Fear myself. :)

    1. This is a good series - I have most of them but haven't read them all yet


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