Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is not like other policemen. His methods appear unorthodox in the extreme: he doesn€™t search for clues; he ignores obvious suspects and arrests people with cast-iron alibis; he appears permanently distracted. In spite of all this his colleagues are forced to admit that he is a born cop.
When strange blue chalk circles start appearing overnight on the pavements of Paris, only Adamsberg takes them €“ and the increasingly bizarre objects found within them €“ seriously. And when the body of a woman with her throat savagely cut is found in one, only Adamsberg realises that other murders will soon follow.
In this frightening and surprising novel, the eccentric, wayward genius of Commissaire Adamsberg is pitted against the deep-rooted mysteries of one Alpine village€™s history and a very present problem: wolves.
Disturbing things have been happening up in the French mountains; more and more sheep are being found with their throats torn out. The evidence points to a wolf of unnatural size and strength. However Suzanne Rosselin thinks it is the work of a werewolf.
Three times a day in a Parisian square, a curious modern-day crier announces the news items that are left in his box. Over the course of a few days he receives a number of disturbing and portentous messages of malicious intent, all of them referring to the Black Death. Strange marks have also appeared on the doors of several buildings: symbols once used to ward off the plague.
Detective Commissaire Adamsberg begins to sense a connection, even a grotesque menace. Then charged and flea-bitten corpses are found. The press seizes on their plague-like symptoms, and the panic sets in.
Between 1943 and 2003 nine people have been stabbed to death with a most unusual weapon: a trident. In each case, arrests were made, suspects confessed their crimes and were sentenced to life in prison. But each presumed murderer lost consciousness during the night of the crime and has no recollection of it.
Commissaire Adamsberg is convinced all the murders are the work of one person, the terrifying Judge Fulgence. Years before, Adamsberg€™s own brother had been the principal suspect in a similar case and avoided prison only thanks to Adamsberg€™s help. History repeats itself when Adamsberg is accused of having savagely murdered a young woman he had met. To prove his innocence, he must go on the run from the Canadian police and find the judge himself.
On the outskirts of Paris, two men have been found with their throats cut. In Normandy, two stags have been killed and their hearts cut out. Meanwhile a seventy-five-year-old nurse who has murdered several of her patients has escaped from prison. Is there a connection between the three cases?
In this mystery, Commissaire Adamsberg is pitted against nemeses past and present: Ariane Lagarde, France€™s foremost pathologist and Adamsberg€™s enemy since they argued over a case twenty-three years earlier, and Louis Veyrenc, a new recruit with a grudge, who has been assigned the job of protecting the Commissaire€™s ex-girlfriend. As the different strands of Vargas€™s compelling story begin to intertwine, events move towards a gripping climax€¦
Commissaire Adamsberg has left Paris for a police conference in London, accompanied by anglophile Commandant Danglard and Estalere, a young sergeant. The city offers a welcome change of scenery until a gruesome discovery is made €“ just outside the gates of Highgate Cemetery a pile of shoes, all containing severed feet, is found.
Returning to Paris, the three men are then confronted with the violent killing and dismemberment of a wealthy, elderly man. Both the dead man€™s son and gardener have motives for murder, but soon another candidate for the killing emerges. As Adamsberg investigates the links between these two unsettling crimes, he puts himself at terrible risk.
€˜People will die,€™ says the panic-stricken woman outside police headquarters. She refuses to speak to anyone besides Commissaire Adamsberg. Her daughter has seen a vision: ghostly horsemen who target the most nefarious characters in Normandy. Since the middle ages there have been stories of murderers, rapists, those with serious crimes on their conscience, meeting a grisly end following a visitation by the riders.
Soon after the young woman€™s vision a notoriously vicious and cruel man disappears. Although the case is far outside his jurisdiction, Adamsberg agrees to investigate the strange happenings in a village terrorised by wild rumours and ancient feuds.
A woman is found murdered in her bathtub, and the murder made to look like a suicide. A strange symbol is found near the body. Then a second victim is discovered, who was also part of a group of tourists on a doomed expedition to Iceland ten years earlier.
How are these deaths, and rumours of an Icelandic demon, linked to the secretive Association for the Study of the Writings of Maximilien Robespierre? And what does the mysterious symbol signify? Commissaire Adamsberg is about to find out.