This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas

The most recent in a long line of Parisian murder mysteries always presented with a twist, the Adamsberg character is at his best here: quirky, instinctual, mercurial and enigmatic. A murder that initially seems to be a natural death by spider bite sends the sleuth and his team of eccentrics far and wide seeking the solution which plays out in typical fashion for this most unusual of detectives. Delightful.
This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas
Penguin Books
Trade Paperback | $16.00

This is the latest Commissaire Adamsberg mystery from one of my favorite authors and it satisfies in every respect. I will talk here not just about this book but about her body of work, since I feel she has not gained enough visibility outside a core group of enthusiasts. If you have not read any of these books, you should: start with Chalk Circle Man and proceed chronologically. It is not mandatory, but it will increase your enjoyment as you learn more about the quirky detective and his cohorts.


Adamsberg is the chief of detectives in the 13 th arrondissement in Paris. His subordinates are a motley combination of erudition, innocence, guile, strength (physical and intellectual) and dedication who contribute in unlikely ways to comprise a team of formidable efficiency. He is himself an oddity, the sleuth who eschews the super-rationality of Holmes, does not exhibit the brutality of Mike Hammer and hasn’t the endurance and capacity for absorbing injury of Sam Spade. His revelations are generally preceded by some sort of profound bodily pain: while in the throes of suffering, he is visited by epiphanies that seem to come from the ether. He is frequently sidelined by the discomfort of migraine-like afflictions or severe gastric upset. During these times of indisposition he discovers the elusive pieces of the puzzle that provide solutions.


It is enough to tell you that a man seems to have died from the poison of a recluse spider: the French variety of this arachnid is not deadly, unless the victim is in fragile health. He is followed in quick succession by two others, which seems odd, but not especially alarming, since they are all elderly. Adamsberg thinks differently, though, and embarks on a journey of discovery that will take him into the practices of religious recluses (anchorite nuns), eccentric spinsters and university entomologist’s offices.


In this tale, we see more closely into the pysches of his team. Each one has something of value to offer and the disparity of viewpoints adds to the surety of guilt the group will eventually reach. It is sometimes necessary for Adamsberg to conceal what he and some of his officers are doing from the others, since their differing points of view can conflict in unproductive ways, but eventually everyone is
brought into the loop…maybe. The scattershot approach he takes produces a lively, quirky and delightfully odd mystery story. There are a few side trips along the way which only add to our acquaintance with this most unusual sleuth. These books are sheer pleasure for whodunit fans.


Here are the Adamsberg books in sequential order.
The Chalk Circle Man * Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand * This Night’s Foul Work
An Uncertain Place * The Ghost Riders of Ordebec * A Climate of Fear * Seeking Whom He May Devour
Have Mercy On Us All * The Accordionist * Dog Will Have His Day