not everybody likes fred vargas. but i think she's wonderful! she reminds me in some ways of those scandinavian police procedural writers, most notablnot everybody likes fred vargas. but i think she's wonderful! she reminds me in some ways of those scandinavian police procedural writers, most notably henning mankell. but, then, she's totally different too. her books seem to me to have a kind of folkloric aspect to them, with werewolves for example. or, in this book, with a kind of rewriting of paris as a medieval town in some ways. not surprisingly, then, vargas delves into questions of human brutality and, like many other very good mystery/police procedural writers, she asks questions about what it means to be human (as opposed to werewolf, for example).
vargas is in fact writing in french, and her stories take place in france. there is a little bit of inspector maigret here, too, in the pace. european mysteries are always very different from american mysteries on that score---a much slower pace, with great attention to detail, and with a different kind of denouement.
the details of the mystery are, in my opinion, exquisitely conceived. there are no cheap tricks here....more
this is a good book. it's not a great book, but it's very good. it's a well-crafted dive into several layers of historical imagination. at each stagethis is a good book. it's not a great book, but it's very good. it's a well-crafted dive into several layers of historical imagination. at each stage the reader is navigated through dense historical investigations, including some delicious research in all kinds of libraries, by way of first-person narratives. this is a very effective way of communicating a great deal of information to the reader. and you have to appreciate this novel's unwillingness to simplify for a wide public. at any rate, as a reader, you don't need to follow the complexities too closely most of the time. this is, after all, a mystery driven by a strange threat, dracula himself, tracked through layers of historical information and layers of folkloric traditions, back and back, until the fanged menace himself begins to take shape. at certain points, this book is actually very creepy to read. it's this combination of goosebumps and rich descriptions of archives that i especially like!...more