Sat 19 March 2011, The Times

An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas, trans Sian Reynolds

By Marcel Berlins
As An Uncertain Place commences with a surreally shocking image, we know immediately that we are in Vargas-land, even though the actual setting is the gloomily Victorian Highgate Cemetery in North London. Lined up at the gates, and pointing towards them as if they are waiting to enter, are 18 pairs of shoes. In each one is a human foot, cut off at the ankle. It so happens that Commissionaire Adamsberg and his Parisian team, attending a conference in London, are witnesses of the bizarre scene. Back in France, the unfathomably eccentric Adamsberg is called to a murder in which the body has been chopped into tiny pieces and scattered all over a room. Police inquiries eventually lead to a village on the Danube. Vampirism enters the picture. At one level, it can be argued that Vargas writes absurd pseudo-gothic tales featuring unbelievable policemen. I prefer to regard her as one of today’s few truly original writers of crime fiction: disturbing, unruly, droll and poetic.
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It was published by The Times, which adheres to the PCC Code

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