What's she like? George Simenon meets Sherlock, perhaps. Romans policiers with a dash of the strange. So far I've managed to read The Chalk Circle Man and An Uncertain Place. In the first, an odd, elusive character starts drawing chalk circles on the pavements of Paris around pieces of litter: Commissaire Adamsberg (Vargas' detective) is the first to suspect something sinister is afoot. It left me with a taste for these books and the second certainly gave me something to get my teeth into: it bases its fictional world on the historical ("true" would be a slightly confusing word to use in this context) 300-year-old vampire stories of Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole. It's strictly a detective rather than a horror story as such, but Vargas can certainly turn on the gothic when she needs to:
The smell was ghastly, the scene was appalling, and even Adamsberg stiffened, standing back a little behind his English colleague. From the ancient shoes, with their cracked leather and trailing laces, projected decomposed ankles, showing dark flesh and white shinbones which had been cleanly chopped off. The only thing that didn't match Clyde-Fox's account was that the feet were not trying to get into the cemetery. They were just there, on the pavement, terrible and provocative, sitting inside their shoes at the historic gateway to Highgate Cemetery. Fred Vargas, An Uncertain Place
Funnily enough, I used to live near Highgate Cemetery and work in the very same road (it was just a short walk from there to Karl Marx' grave). It's the perfect horror-film set and it comes as no surprise that vampire stories have grown up around the place, no doubt providing Vargas with more grist to her fictional mill. It's not the very occasional grisly bit that keeps you reading (like the above, which I couldn't resist quoting) but the humanity of the books and the realism of the characters. The Weaver of Grass is reading them too: I'm just going round, now, to swap An Uncertain Place for The Three Evangelists. I can't wait to get down to reading it: otherwise this post might have gone on a little longer.