Author: Fred Vargas
Translated from the French: David Bellos
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2006
Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #3 Chief Inspector Adamsberg mystery
Source: Purchased at the Poisoned Pen.
First Line: On Tuesday, four sheep were killed at Ventebrune in the French Alps.
A small mountain village in the French Alps awakens each morning to the grisly sight of yet more sheep with their throats torn out. A local insists that it's the work of a werewolf, and when she is found killed in the same manner, people begin to wonder if she was right.
Soon an unlikely little group forms of the murdered woman's son, one of her shepherds, and her friend Camille. They've decided that a local eccentric named Massart is the werewolf, and since he's nowhere to be seen, they're going to find his trail and catch him. On their comedy-of-errors road trip, it doesn't take them long to realize that they just don't have what it takes to apprehend a werewolf, and Camille summons Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg to help them. Adamsberg finds that there are many layers of buried secrets for his intuition to unravel.
Adamsberg has been compared to Maigret, and I can't help but chuckle at his choice of venue for deep thinking:
The Waters of Liffey provided a first-rate solution to his dilemma. The only people in the bar were noisy, boozy Irishmen speaking what was for Adamsberg a completely hermetic tongue. He thought he must be one of the last people left on the planet to know not a single word of English. Such old-fashioned ignorance allowed him to fit happily into the Liffey, where he could enjoy the stream of life without being in any way inconvenienced by it. In this precious hidey-hole Adamsberg spent many an hour dreaming away, peacefully waiting for ideas to rise to the surface if his mind.
The stars of Seeking Whom He May Devour are, without doubt, the wonderful cast of characters and the eerie, creepy atmosphere high in the mountains with few people around. Vargas came close a time or two to getting me to believe in werewolves.
As much as I enjoyed the characters and the atmospheric setting, I did find the plot to be a bit of a letdown. When one of the characters was described, I knew that person was the killer immediately. If I hadn't known this so quickly, I think Vargas would have had the hair standing on the back of my neck. I missed that element of suspense in what was otherwise a very good book.
I happened to read this book in the series out of order, skipping from the first book to the third. Vargas provided just enough backstory to keep me grounded without bogging down the plot.