Saturday, 19 January 2013

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands

I've just finished a Fred Vargas novel - one of my favourite crime writers, along with Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers (who I haven't read for ages) and Georges Simenon. In Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands, Vargas' detective, Jean-Baptiste Adamsburg, goes in pursuit of a bizarre serial killer who murders his victims with a trident. Even more bizarre, the man thought to be "the Trident" has apparently been dead for years. To make matters worse, it's not exactly clear whether Adamsburg will catch his man or himself be caught for a murder the Canadian Mounted Police are convinced he comitted.

Pink Lake in Ottowa and Strasburg cathedral are drafted in as extras, each performing symbolic roles in the machinations of Adamsburg's mind. "Machinations" is perhaps the wrong word. Adamsburg is not known for solving crimes logically - he relies on intuition or, as somebody puts it, "shovelling clouds".

As usual, the details of the story and the personalities of the characters are almost but not quite sufficiently off-beat to suggest that the action takes place in a parallel universe. Expect the unexpected - people are revealed as having surprising interests and talents. There's a nonogenarian computer hacker in furry slippers, a policeman (Danglard) in a wooly hat from which a pom-pom is obviously missing (a detail you can spot in the video, below). Lieutenant Retancourt is a deft masseuse, who can magically massage Danglard to sleep during a long haul flight (Danglard is terrified of flying). Being overweight, Retancourt is frequently called on  to sit on uncooperative suspects and even hide people under her voluminous dressing-gown.

I think I've read all of Vargas' detective stories now - all those available in English, that is. Fortunately, there's another one coming out soon. To my knowledge, sadly, no-one has seen fit to show the series of Adamsburg stories made for French TV in Britain. I couldn't find many excerpts from them on Youtube - and none with subtitles. This one seems to have been made to promote the actress who plays Retancourt and features scenes from Sous les vents de Neptune (the original title of Wash this Blood). From what I can tell, Corinne Masiero makes a great Retancourt. My schoolboy French isn't quite upto it but, if you know the book you can  more or less work out which scene is which. It certainly captures the atmosphere.

SPOILER WARNING: It depends on your idea of a spoiler, but don't watch more than a minute or two and definitely don't watch the last 3 and a half minutes if you want to read the book.
It would be great if this series found its way onto British TV (why on earth hasn't it?) but you can't have everything. I mean, in 2014 the Tour de France will be passing less than 2 miles from our house - and at the weekend, when I'll be around to watch it!


Gwil W said...

I hope you enjoy Le Tour, Dominic. I cannot say if I will at this time for sport when once again the mighty are fallen.

Dominic Rivron said...

GwilW:I will enjoy it. I've decided that doing my "bit" for cycling (an infinitesimally small, subjective bit, I know) is not allowing myself to be disillusioned by the drugs business -especially since a lot of the high profile stuff in the media is about the past. What could undermine my resolve is not so much the drug-use but the duplicitous behaviour -even the use of lawsuits- intended to intimidate those who have tried to expose it.

But it won't. Cycling is one of the ultimate sports, if not the ultimate sport in terms of challenge. For that reason, if there is a way of cheating, there will be humans out there who will try to exploit them but this does not mean they should be allowed to destroy the sport. If there's a sporting equivalent of emulsioning the roof of the Sistine Chapel, it has to be the destruction of professional cycling.

If what we do -run up mountains for fun- was as high profile as cycling, fell running would be ridden with drug controversies. We can and should try to eradicate drug use but the pursuit of glory carries temptation with it. It will always be a problem or, at the very least, a potential problem.

Hemingway one said that "there are but three true sports: bullfighting, mountain climbing, and motor-racing. The rest are merely games." As a vegetarian, I think one should ditch the bullfighting and stick cycling in there instead.

So, I don't want to wish time away -I've lots of plans for between now and then- but roll on 2014!

The Weaver of Grass said...

I must say that it is great to find an author that we can share books about - usually our tastes are so different so it is good that you can pass on your reading matter to me and vice versa.

Alan Burnett said...

One of the most useful side effects of Blogging is the way it stretches your tastes. Thanks to recommendations by people I trust, I have been tempted to sample music, films, and books which I might have otherwise passed by. I can now add Fred Vargas to the list of things I will try, and I suspect, the list of things I finish up becoming a great fan of.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

WG: Indeed.

AB: Yes. Funny you should say that. As it happens, I got into Fred Vargas thanks to something Tony Zimnoch wrote.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Dominic:
Well, we have to confess that we had not heard of Fred Vargas....until now! You have certainly whetted our appetites and shall be seeking out his books with the greatest of urgency. As we have lived without a television for more than thirty years, any idea of a television series is of little consequence to us.However, a gripping yarn is exactly our cup of tea!!

Thank you so much for the comment which you left on our latest post which has enabled us to find you. We are hooked and have Followed!!!

Friko said...

I saw that somebody else had recommended Vargas. I think it’s about time I gave him a try, seeing that I greatly enjoy decent thrillers.

PS: I am still reading Sayers, for nth time. A bit dated now but o how well written.

A Cuban In London said...

Many thanks for that lovely review. I can't say that I'm familiar with the author but I totally enjoyed the clip. Love French, pity that I'm not up to scratch with it as I used to be.

Thanks for your comment the other day. I completely agree with you and in fact it is something I remember talking to someone about at a party. Audiences shouldn't be equated to passive participators. Any kind of art is a two-way system, from the painting on the wall to the actor on stage.

Greetings from London.

tony said...

I didn't know about the French TV series..Come On BBC ! I bet it's brilliant in a Bergon-on-Acid sort of way!Funnily enough ,I was in Waterstones Manchester yesterday asking about Vargas books...., & they looked on their computer & have a few I have not read yet......(Calderdale Library only seem to have about 4)
Also,have you read George Saunders? I bought one of his yesterday..I have already begun.Rather Good!