the guardian Sat 21 February 2009
The first book in the Commissaire Adamsberg series - the sixth to be published here - is a good introduction to this quirky French writer. When blue chalk circles begin appearing on Parisian pavements, enclosing objets trouvés from dolls' heads to dead cats, Adamsberg is alone in thinking that it may not be a harmless game. He's proved right when the corpse of a woman, her throat cut, turns up in one of the circles. Little attempt is made to suspend the reader's disbelief. Given the sheer number of the things, it seems highly unlikely that only one person - a famous oceanographer, Mathilde Forestier, who has a habit of following strangers - has noticed the perpetrator. In fact, the plot fairly creaks with coincidences, and there are so many bizarre characters that I longed for one ordinary person to offset the gallery of eccentrics. That said, it is testimony both to Vargas's skill as a writer and to Reynolds's excellent translation that one is swept along by the sheer nouvelle vague-ish inventiveness of the whole thing.