Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
An Uncertain Place is another in Fred Vargas’s riveting series featuring Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, chief of the Parisian Serious Crimes Squad. Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau, French medieval historian and archaeologist, and her novels grip the reader throughout with the laid-back beguiling Adamsberg leading a twisting, tantalising plot. Vargas writes with a dry wit and command of language, and is well served by her translator Siân Reynolds; her novels have won three international crime daggers.
Adamsberg is offbeat, with unusual methods of reaching the truth, taking time along the way to care for those he comes across, whether people or animals, and in his police work is counterbalanced by his deputy Commandant Danglard. Both attend a conference in London under the auspices of New Scotland Yard and become drawn into a bizarre case when a pile of ancient shoes is found outside the gates of Highgate Cemetery, known for its gothic and macabre atmosphere. The shoes are in keeping with that, for they contain the severed feet of their owners.
It seems to be solely a case for the Yard, however, and Adamsberg and his deputy return to Paris, where they are given a macabre case of their own – a gruesome murder in the city’s suburbs. Following his own idiosyncratic methods, Adamsberg follows a long and tortuous trail that takes him out of France and eventually to Serbia where old legends and beliefs still prevail. Along the way the plot develops with colourful characters as Adamsberg runs into great personal danger, but still has time to think and to care for those who oppose him.
If you haven’t yet met Commissaire Adamsberg, shake hands with him as soon as you can. He’s a remarkable character in a remarkable novel by an author of distinction.