Monday 19 February 2018

Seeking Whom He May Devour

Book two of Fred Vargas's 'Commissaire Adamsberg' series of murder mysteries is Seeking Whom He May Devour set, not in or around Paris, but in the Mercantour National Park in the Alpes-Maritimes region of southern France.

Naturalist, Lawrence Johnstone, a Canadian, is studying wolves in the Mercantour NP and is finding it hard to leave the area despite his work being finished. Partly he's come to love the region and the wolves but also he lives with a lovely young French woman, Camille, and does not want to leave her. Coincidently she is also an ex-girlfriend of Commissaire Adamsberg's. The two live in a small, very rural, village, Saint-Victor-du-Mont, where everyone knows everyone else intimately and also their business.

A number of ewes belonging to a local farmer, Suzanne Melchior, are found brutally killed and a few days later so is the farmer herself. Johnstone tells Camille that Suzanne had told him confidentially she thought there was a werewolf on the loose and that she thought a local by the name of Massart was a likely candidate. It seems crazy but the sheep and the farmer have definitely been killed by a very large wolf, not a dog or any other kind of wild animal.

Massart disappears and they find a map that he's marked with a rural route up across France to England where he has a relative living. Johnstone suggests that Camille and two others, Suzanne's adopted son Soliman and her shepherd, Watchee, drive after him in a dilapidated old lorry. It's a cat and mouse chase they embark upon, but the mouse is always one step ahead. They need help and Camille remembers her ex-boyfriend, Adamsberg...

Great fun. (If you're allowed to say that about a story about vicious murders.) I loved the banter and cameraderie between Camille and her travelling companions, what a couple of characters! And the region is really brought alive by Fred Vargas - it sounds 'stunning'. This from Wikipedia:

I hadn't thought of a road-trip type murder story before but goodness, for an armchair traveller like myself, it works a treat! Especially one who loves mountains as I do.

Adamsberg himself does not join the team until halfway through, but does appear before that concerned with other things. He's following the news of the murders on TV though, but has no idea why apart from the fact that he's from a mountainous region himself (The Pyrennes) and knows how isolated and different the people there can be with their unusual superstitions. The book is chock full of these quirky characters and that makes it very real and very amusing.

As to the mystery itself, I had an inkling early on but abandoned it pretty quickly, which I shouldn't have done. But the joy of this story is not actually in the eventual outcome but in the getting there... 'the journey' as they say. Loved it and am now looking for the next instalment.



Kay said...

I have not read any books in this series, but like the idea of one set in a region I know little about. Plus the name of the book caught my attention - seeking whom he may devour - that would be the Devil roaming the earth. I think I need to see if my library has this series.

Cath said...

Kay: I read the first book in the series, The Chalk Circle Man, years ago, and then didn't read any more... I think because back then (2010) they were difficult to get hold of at the library. Then Margaret started reading them and I checked the library to see what they had... book 9... I read it and am now hooked. My local library apparently has the next book so I shall be grabbing it asap. Interesting that you say the title refers to the Devil roaming the earth, I didn't know that. It's kind of appropriate.

DesLily said...

This sounds good! Glad you had "yet another" good read lol..

Cath said...

Pat: Three great crime reads in a row... I think that must be some kind of record. LOL!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Another new to me series and author also.

At first glance, I must confess that the premise didn't particularly appeal and it was only your lovely review which kept me reading.

However, I did scoot across to Goodreads and the author profile for Fred Vargas was so interesting, that I ended up by reading several of the readers' comments about the book.

I'm not sure that I am completely sold on the story line, but on the other hand, it hasn't been dismissed either. We have only ever sampled the lakes and mountains of Switzerland, which were spectacularly beautiful in early summer, although too price prohibitive to return to now!

Thanks for sharing :)


Cath said...

Hi Yvonne. I understand why the premise did not appeal... it's an odd one for a series that's basically of the murder mystery genre but I gather some of the books have this mild supernatural element to them. It certainly isn't the main focus of the ones I've read, just there in the background as a sort of little tease.

How wonderful that you've been to Switzerland. One of my 'see before I die' wishes is to see The Alps. I don't mind where... France, Italy, Switzerland... I'm not bothered. I've read such a lot about them it would be nice to actually see them in real life.

Have a nice week... I wonder if we'll get any snow here in the south west?

Vintage Reading said...

I've always wanted to read the Dorothy Wordsworth journal and was interested in your review. I don't know the Lake District at all and I'm not one for wall-to-wall nature descriptions but I do like to walk! I'll check it out.

Cath said...

Nicola: I've only been to the Lake District once - back in the 90s - and would like to go again but it's such a hike from Devon. I have to say that Dorothy's journals have stayed with me. We were watching a programme we'd recorded last night, 100 Favourite Walks. The Lake District featured a lot and her journals made that area come more alive somehow as I was watching.