The Accordionist by Fred Vargas

The Accordionist (Three Evangelists 3)

The Accordionist by Fred Vargas and translated by SianReynolds is the third book in the Three Evangelists series and it’s probably the most puzzling of the three. They are quirky crime fiction novels, with eccentric characters and intricate plots. The three ‘Evangelists’ are thirty-something historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien, all specialists in three different periods of history, who live in a rambling house in Paris. Together with ex-special investigator Louis Kehlweiler, retired from the Ministry of the Interior, they find themselves involved in murder mysteries, mainly because Louis just can’t resist trying to solve particularly difficult crimes.

In this third book a simple-minded young man, Clément Vauquer, who plays the accordion, is the prime suspect for the murders of two Parisian women as he was seen watching both of their apartments before their murders. Desperate to prove his innocence he appeals to Marthe, who had looked after him as a child, for help.

Louis is supposed to be translating a biography of Bismark, but the newspaper reports of the two murdered women have distracted him so when his old friend Marthe tells him that Clément, who is like a son to her, is innocent and being used as a scapegoat he agrees to investigate and find the real culprit. He in turn, enlists the help of the three evangelists and Marc’s uncle, a retired policeman and they take Clément into their house to protect him whilst they dig deeper into the mystery.

I found this book the most baffling of the trilogy and really had no idea of how they managed to unravel all the strands of this murder mystery which has its roots in the past. They worked on instincts and by deciphering Clément’s muddled thoughts and memories, and with the help of a poem by the nineteenth century poet, Gerard de Nerval, finally uncover the killer’s identity. It’s the eccentric characters and the complicated plots that make Fred Vargas’ books stand out for me.

Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of of the French historian, archaeologist and writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau. She has won three International Dagger Awards from the Crime Writers Association, for three successive novels: in 2006, 2008 and 2009. I’ve also enjoyed her Commissaire Adamsberg books, probably more even than the Three Evangelists, and I still have a few of that series left to read including the tenth and latest book in the series, This Poison will Remain, due to be published in August this year.

  • Format: Paperback
  • File Size: 783 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099548364
  • Source: Library book
  • My Rating: 4*

My Friday Post: The Accordionist by Fred Vargas

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

The book I’m featuring this week is The Accordionist by Fred Vargas, a book I reserved at the library and collected yesterday. It’s the third book in her Three Evangelists series.

The Accordionist (Three Evangelists)

It begins:

Paris, July, 1997

‘PARIS KILLER STRIKES AGAIN! SEE PAGE 6.’

Louis Kehlweiler threw the newspaper down on the table. He’d seen enough and felt no urge to turn to page 6. Later maybe, when the whole business had calmed down, he’d cut out the article and file it.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘I want to know what the cops think about these two murders, what lines they’re following, and how far they’ve got.’

Description (Amazon)

When two Parisian women are murdered in their homes, the police suspect young accordionist Clément Vauquer. As he was seen outside both of the apartments in question, it seems like an open-and-shut case.

Desperate for a chance to prove his innocence, Clément disappears. He seeks refuge with old Marthe, the only mother figure he has ever known, who calls in ex-special investigator Louis Kehlweiler.

Louis is soon faced with his most complex case yet and he calls on some unconventional friends to help him. He must show that Clément is not responsible and solve a fiendish riddle to find the killer…

~~~

I’ve been looking forward to reading The Accordionist since I finished Dog Will Have His Day, the second book in Fred Vargas’ Three Evangelists series. I love her books. She writes such quirky crime fiction, with eccentric characters and intricate plots that I love and find so difficult to solve.

What about you? Does it tempt you or would you stop reading? 

 

Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas

Dog Will Have His Day (The Three Evangelists, #2)

I enjoyed the first book in Fred Vargas’ Three Evangelists series so much – see my review – that I decided to read the next one Dog Will Have His Day  and I’ve reserved the third book, The Accordionist at the library. I love Fred Vargas’s books. She writes such quirky crime fiction, with eccentric characters and intricate plots that I love and find so difficult to solve.

The three ‘Evangelists’ are thirty-something historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien, all specialists in three different periods of history, who live in a rambling house in Paris. Actually there are only two of the three Evangelists in Dog Will Have His Day – Marc and Mathias – who help ex-special investigator Louis Kehlweiler, to uncover the mystery surrounding a tiny fragment of human bone Louis had found.

Louis is another one of Vargas’ eccentric characters, known variously as Ludwig/Louis, the son of a French woman and a German soldier, he carries Bufo, a toad, around in his pocket and even talks to it. Even though he is retired he still keeps newspaper cuttings and files on any criminal activity of any kind, which is where Marc helps him. And he also still keeps watch on all his observation posts, numbering the public benches and even trees in the Paris parks.  Sitting on bench 102 one evening he had seen a pile of dog excrement on a grid around a tree. This annoyed him – he didn’t like his lookout posts to be fouled – but the next morning the rain had washed the grid clean and all that remained from the dog poo was the tiny bone. The bone, which turned out to be the top joint of a big toe, probably that of an elderly woman, convinces Louis that a murder has taken place. And, of course, he has to find out who it had belonged to and what had happened.

His search takes him and Marc to a small fishing village in Finistére in Brittany, where they are later joined by Mathias, in the hope of identifying the victim and the murderer. There Louis not only comes across an ex-girlfriend, discovers the answer to a mystery in his own family history, but he also discovers that an old woman, Marie had been found dead on the beach. It had been recorded as an accidental death but Louis is convinced she was murdered – but who killed her and why?

This really is a strange murder mystery, full of bizarre events and characters – plus an extraordinary machine that prints out vague answers to questions. I found it compelling reading. I see from the synopsis of The Accordionist that Louis is also in the third book in the series with the three ‘Evangelists’ – I’m hoping my reserved copy will be available from the library soon.

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (9 April 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099589885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099589884
  • Source: Library book
  • My rating 4.5*

The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

The Three Evangelists (Three Evangelists, #1)

I love Fred Vargas’s books. She writes such quirky crime fiction, with eccentric characters and intricate plots that I find so difficult to solve.

The Three Evangelists, set mainly in Paris, is an excellent example and the three title characters are thirty-something historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien, all specialists in three different periods of history and all down on their luck. Together with Marc’s uncle and godfather, Armand Vandoosler, an ex-policeman,  they have just moved into a ‘tumbledown disgrace’ of a house next door to retired opera singer Sophia Siméonidis and her husband Pierre. When a tree unexpectedly appears in Sophia’s garden she asks for their help in digging around the tree to see if something has been buried there. They find nothing but soil.

Then Sophia disappears and her body is found burned to ashes in a car. The evangelists and Armand use their expertise to find out what happened. Did her husband kill her, or her best friend; had she run off with an ex-lover and how does her niece figure in the mystery?

Sophia’s past life comes under scrutiny by the three historians, helped by Vandoosler and his friend, a current policeman. The trail leads back into Sophia’s past as an opera singer, a past full of intrigue, jealousy and desire. I loved all the characters in particular the three historians, each one unique, entertaining and completely eccentric. The clever plot had me completely bamboozled and the ending was so unexpected as the twists and turns had led me up the wrong garden path, so to speak.

Now, I’m keen to read the other two books in the series – Dog Will Have His Day and The Accordionist.

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Jan. 2007) (First published in 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099469553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099469551
  • Source: Library book
  • My rating 4.5*

 

 

 

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’m featuring The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas, one of my favourite authors. I’ve read some of her Commissaire Adamsberg books and loved them. This one is the first in the Three Evangelists series.

The Three Evangelists (Three Evangelists, #1)

It begins:

‘Pierre, something’s wrong with the garden,’ said Sophia.

She opened the window and examined the patch of ground. She knew it by heart, every blade of grass. What she saw sent a shiver down her spine.

Blurb from the back cover:

The opera singer Sophia Siméonidis wakes up one morning to discover that a tree has appeared overnight in the garden of her Paris house. Intrigued and unnerved, she turns to her neighbours: Vandoosler, an ex-cop, and three impecunious historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien – the three evangelists. They agree to dig around the tree and see if something has been buried there. They find nothing but soil.

A few weeks later, Sophia disappears and her body is found burned to ashes in a car. Who killed the opera singer? Her husband, her ex-lover, her best friend, her niece? They all seem to have a motive.

Vandoosler and the three evangelists set out to find the truth.

∼ ∼ 

This looks so different from her Adamsberg books – and yet at the same time so similar – quirky, with eccentric characters and with a mystery to solve.

What do you think – would you read on?

A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas

A Climate of Fear (Commissaire Adamsberg #10)

A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas (see below*), translated from the French by Siân Reynolds, is her 9th Commissaire Adamsberg book.

I had high expectations for this book and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s as quirky and original as the other Commissaire Adamsberg books I’ve read (I’ve read five of them, including this one). I like Adamsberg; he’s original, a thinker, who doesn’t like to express his feelings, but mulls things over. He’s an expert at untangling mysteries, an invaluable skill in this, one of the most complicated and intricate mysteries I’ve read. He’d compared the investigation right from the start to a huge tangled knot of seaweed, and summed it up at the end:

… you can’t just plunge into a thing like that. We were pulling out tiny little broken fragments, and getting drawn into other traps. We had elements, clues, but they were floating, dozens of them, just under the surface without any apparent connection between them, in a sort of fog. The whole thing had been drowned in confusion by this twisted and determined killer. (pages 393-394)

The ‘tangled knot‘ is most confusing to begin with, made up of a woman found bleeding to death in her bath, having apparently committed suicide, a strange symbol that appears at subsequent death scenes, a secretive society studying and re-enacting scenes from the French Revolution, and two deaths ten years earlier on an isolated island off the coast of Iceland, where the afturganga, the demon who owns the island summons people to their death.

As in earlier books, Fred Vargas brings in elements of the supernatural, of folk tales, myths and legends, all of which is fascinating and intricately woven into the murder mystery. I loved all of it, especially the tense and fraught relationship that developed between Adamsberg and his team as they became increasingly unable to follow Adamsberg’s line of thought. I also enjoyed reading the details about Robespierre and the part he played in the French Revolution during the Reign of Terror, plus the little quirky details such as those about the cat who sleeps on the photocopier and the tame wild boar that guards one of the characters.

All in all, a brilliant book.

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (14 July 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910701386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910701386
  • Source: I borrowed it from my local library
  • My Rating: 5*

These are the other books I’ve read by Fred Vargas:

* Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of the French historian, archaeologist and writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau.

My Week in Books: 13 September 2017

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

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A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Now: I’m currently reading The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse.

The Taxidermist's Daughter

 

Blurb:

The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream . . .

1912. A Sussex churchyard. Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.

As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years . . .

Then: I’ve just finished reading A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas which I really enjoyed. My review will follow soon.

A Climate of Fear (Commissaire Adamsberg #10)

 

Blurb:

A woman is found dead in her bath. The murder has been disguised as a suicide and a strange symbol is discovered at the scene.

Then the symbol is observed near a second victim, who ten years earlier had also taken part in a doomed expedition to Iceland.

How are these deaths, and rumours of an Icelandic demon, linked to a secretive local society? And what does the mysterious sign mean? Commissaire Adamsberg is about to find out.

Next: For once I know exactly what I’ll be reading next, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a re-read of a book I first read and loved years ago:

The Poisonwood Bible

Blurb:

Told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian congo in 1959, The Poisonwood Bible is the story of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

How about you? Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think of them? And what have you been reading this week?