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*

Reading Bingo 2018

reading-bingo-small

This is my  third year of playing the Reading Bingo Card.  I like it because during the year I don’t look for books to fill in the card – I just read what I want to read and then see whether the books I’ve read will match the squares. I also like it because it is an excellent way of looking back at the books I’ve read and reminding me of how much I enjoyed them.

Here is my completed card for 2018:

A Book With More Than 500 pages.

Victoria: A Life

Victoria: A Life by A N Wilson – 656 pages. It took me three months to read this biography and I learned so much and enjoyed it immensely. Victoria was 81 when she died and had been Queen for nearly 64 years, from 1837 to 1901. She’d had 9 children and was grandmother of 42. It’s detailed, well researched and illustrated, with copious notes, an extensive bibliography and an index. He portrays Victoria both as a woman, a wife and a mother as well as a queen, set against the backdrop of the political scene in Britain and Europe.

A Forgotten Classic 

Bats in the Belfry (British Library Crime Classics)

The British Library series of crime classics presents forgotten classics many of which have been out of print since before the Second War. I’ve read several of them, including Bats in the Belfry by E C R Lorac, a pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett who was a prolific writer of crime fiction from the 1930s to the 1950s. It was first published in 1937 and I think it is one of the better Golden Age Mysteries that I’ve read. It’s set in London in the 1930s, full of descriptive writing, painting vivid pictures of the streets of London and in particular the spooky, Gothic tower in which a corpse is discovered, ‘headless and handless’.

A Book That Became a Movie 

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck Set against the background of dust bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land. The book became a movie in 1940 directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda.

A Book Published This Year

Turning for Home by Barney Norris was published in January this year. It’s a novel of  love and loss, grief and guilt. Every year, Robert’s family come together at a rambling old house to celebrate his birthday. Aunts, uncles, distant cousins – it has been a milestone in their lives for decades. But this year Robert doesn’t want to be reminded of what has happened since they last met.

A Book with a Number in the Title

The Three Evangelists (Three Evangelists, #1)

The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas, quirky crime fiction, with eccentric characters and an intricate plot.  The three title characters are thirty-something historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien, all down on their luck. Together with Marc’s uncle and godfather, Armand Vandoosler, an ex-policeman, they have just moved into 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.

A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin (Maigret #10)

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin by Georges Simenon, is one of the early Maigret books published in 1931 when Simenon was 28. Set in Liege in Belgium, a corpse is found in the Botanical Gardens in a large laundry basket in the middle of a lawn.

A Book With Non-Human Characters 

The Toymakers

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale –  a wonderful book about Papa Jack’s Emporium in London, a toyshop extraordinaire. The toys it sells aren’t ordinary toys – they seem alive, from patchwork dogs, to flying pegasi, Russian dolls that climb out of one another, runnerless rocking horses, whales that devour ships, fire-breathing dragons and many others to the toy soldiers that wage war on each other.

A Funny Book

Three Men in a Boat

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. When Jerome began writing this book he intended it to be a serious travel book about the Thames, its scenery and history, but, as he wrote, it turned into a funny book. The Thames remains at the centre of the book but it is also full of anecdotes about the events that happened to him and his friends whilst out on the river, interspersed with passages about the scenery and history. It’s a gentle, witty book that kept me entertained all the way through

A Book By A Female Author 

I’m spoilt for choice in this category, with lots of female authors to choose from. In the end I’ve picked No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister, one of the 5* books I’ve read this year. It plunges straight into a trial as Martha sits in the courtroom listening to expert witnesses being questioned and cross-examined about the death of her baby, Layla, just eight weeks old. Her sister Becky is accused of murdering her. She found Layla dead in her cot and denies killing her. It looked like a cot death – until the postmortem showed otherwise – and the police are convinced it was murder.

A Book With A Mystery

Watching You

I could have chosen any one of the many crime fiction novels I’ve read this year, but I’ve picked Watching You by Lisa Jewell, crime fiction that keeps you guessing about everything right from the first page – someone was murdered, but who was it and why, and just who was the killer? Full of suspense and drama, it is only right at the end of the book that all becomes clear. I loved it.

A Book With A One Word Title

Munich

Munich by Robert Harris is a novel about the 1938 Munich Conference, a mix of fact and fiction. Harris uses two fictional characters, Hugh Legat as one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries and Paul Hartmann, a German diplomat and a member of the anti-Hitler resistance to tell his story.

A Book of Short Stories

Foreign Bodies

Foreign Bodies edited by Martin Edwards. A collection of 15 stories, vintage crime fiction in translation, written by authors from Hungary, Japan, Denmark, India, Germany, Mexico, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia and France.  Martin Edwards has prefaced each one with a brief biographical note. Authors include – Arthur Conan Doyle, G K Chesterton, Michael Innes, Margery Allingham and Dorothy L Sayers.

Free SquareTime is a Killer

For this square I’ve chosen a book in translation. It’s Time is a Killer by Michel Bussi, translated from the French by Shaun Whiteside. Every summer Clotilde, her brother, Nicolas and her parents, Paul and Palma Idrissi visit Paul’s parents in Corsica. In 1989 Paul, Palma and Nicolas are killed in a car crash. Twenty seven years later Clotilde returns. Her grandparents are still alive but are reluctant to talk about the accident and the locals seem to resent her presence. As Clotilde delves into her memories she begins to realise that the past is not quite as she thought it was.

A Book Set On A Different Continent

Force of Nature

Force of Nature by Jane Harper – I loved this book, set in the fictional Giralang Ranges in Australia, seeing the Mirror Falls roaring down from a cliff edge into the pool fifteen metres below, the eucalyptus trees and the dense bush, and the breathtaking views of rolling hills and valleys as the gum trees give way,  with the sun hanging low in the distance. But this is the story of a team-building event that went badly wrong when Alice went missing and a search party is sent out into the bush to find her.

A Book of Non Fiction

Painting as a Pastime

Painting as a Pastime by Winston Churchill – a wonderful book, I loved it. He wrote about the pleasure he discovered in a heightened sense of observation and also about the need for a change to rest and strengthen the mind that painting provided – ‘Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness.’

The First Book By a Favourite Author

After You'd Gone

After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell – her debut novel. The main character, Alice is in a coma after being in road accident, which may or may not have been a suicide attempt. She has been grieving the death of her husband, John.

A Book You Heard About On Line

A Perfectly Good Man

Many of the books I read these days are books I’ve heard about on line. I’ve chosen A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale because when I wrote about Notes From an Exhibition Café Society recommended it. The ‘perfectly good man‘ is Barnaby Johnson, a parish priest, a man who always tries to do the right thing, but he doesn’t always manage it. It’s a beautifully written book about faith and the loss of faith, about love and cruelty and deception, about ordinary life and about everyday tragedies, and also sublime moments.

A Best Selling Book

Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)

Tombland by C J Sansom, the 7th book in his Shardlake series. Another 5* book! It’s 1549, Edward VI is king, England is ruled by the Duke of Somerset as Lord Protector and rebellion is spreading throughout the land. Matthew Shardlake is asked to investigate the murder of Edith Boleyn, the wife of John Boleyn – a distant Norfolk relation of Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn.  Then he and his assistants get caught up in the rebellion against the landowners’ enclosures of the common land as thousands of peasants led by Robert Kett establish a vast camp outside Norwich.

A Book Based On A True Story

The Hunger

The Hunger by Alma Katsu, one of the 5* books I’ve read this year. It’s historical fiction based on the true story of the Donner Party, a group of pioneers, people who were looking for a better life in the American West. They formed a wagon train under the leadership of George Donner and James Reed making their way west to California in 1846. Alma Katsu’s book interweaves fact with fiction and with hints of the supernatural and Indian myths it becomes a thrilling, spine tingling horrific tale.

A Book At The Bottom of Your To Be Read Pile

The Tenderness of Wolves

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney –  I’ve had this book since 2007. It’s set in Canada in 1867 beginning in a small place called Dove River on the north shore of Georgian Bay where Mr and Mrs Ross were the first people to settle. The setting is beautiful and as I read I felt as though I was in the wilds of Canada. It’s complex book with many characters  and many sub-plots as the search for the murderer of the French-Canadian trapper, Laurent Jammet.

A Book Your Friend Loves

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match

Wedlock by Wendy Moore is a book recommended by a friend, who thought it was very good. She was quite right and I loved this biography of Mary Eleanor Bowes, who was one of Britain’s richest young heiresses in 18th century Britain. Her first husband was the Count of Strathmore – the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, was a direct descendant of their marriage. Her second marriage to Andrew Robinson Stoney was an absolute disaster. He was brutally cruel and treated her with such violence, humiliation, deception and kidnap, that she lived in fear for her life.

A Book that Scares You

The Craftsman

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton. This is one of her standalone books. They are all really scary, creepy books and I was inescapably drawn into this chilling and terrifying story with the horrors of being buried alive clearly described. It is a remarkably powerful book, full of tension and fear about coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook, a serial child killer who buried his victims alive.

A Book That Is More Then Ten Years Old

Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie,  writing as Mary Westmacott, first published in 1944. I was thoroughly absorbed in the story of Joan Scudamore.  It is set in Mesopotamia (corresponding to today’s Iraq, mostly, but also parts of modern-day Iran, Syria and Turkey) in a railway rest-house at Tel Abu Hamid on the Turkish border, where Joan is stranded, delayed by floods. She occupies the time with reading and then by thinking about herself. Gradually she relives her past, all the time with a growing feeling of unease and anxiety that she is not the person she thought she was.

The Second Book In A Series

Bump in the Night (Flaxborough Chronicles, #2)

Bump in the Night by Colin Watson, the second book in his Flaxborough series. It’s crime fiction full of wordplay, innuendo, practical jokes and murder. Inspector Purbright investigates a series of explosions, culminating in the death of the local haulage contractor.

A Book With A Blue Cover

The Burning Chambers

 The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse, the first in a new trilogy set in Languedoc in the south-west of France. It’s set in 1562 during the French Wars of Religion, centred on the Joubert family, Catholics living in Carcassonne and Piet Reydon, one of the Huguenot leaders.  Bernard Joubert, a bookseller had been imprisoned accused of being a traitor and a heretic, and Pietis on a dangerous mission in Carcassone to further the Huguenot cause. He finds his life is in danger from the priest Vidal.

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? 

 

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?