martes, 17 de noviembre de 2015

L'homme à l'envers

L'homme à l'envers (J'ai Lu, 2015)
by Fred Vargas
France, 1999

Stupid ending and previsible villain aside, Fred Vargas' L'homme à l'envers [literally Inside-Out Man but Englishized as Seeking Whom He May Devour] was still an otherwise intelligent and entertaining enough page-turner that I wouldn't hesitate to read another of her Commissaire Adamsberg mysteries or to give a try to her so-called Three Evangelists series or even both.  Intelligent and entertaining?  The proof is in the pudding, dude.  For most of the whodunit/"roade-mouvie" (182), Vargas is sufficiently understated and amusing to get away with spinning an audaciously farfetched story in which characters actually debate whether an enormous wolf or an actual werewolf is at all responsible for a series of barbaric wolf attack-like slayings across France.  No mean feat!  Pros: Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is appealingly enigmatic as the intuition- rather than logic-based crime-solving star of the show, and both the Parisian Commissaire and his love interest and even the minor characters are all way more subtly drawn/believable than the narrator Dino in Alberto Moravia's Boredom or the overwrought mother-in-law Fay in Eudora Welty's The Optimist's Daughter (two supposedly "good" books I totally hated and now no longer need to review, thank you very much).  Cons: Although I jotted down a fair amount of new to me French vocab to look up during my time with the novel, I didn't take note of any cool lines to share with you here and my emphasis on characterization above probably should be construed as damning with faint praise.  Bottom line: OK, serviceable prose, not as dumb as most thrillers.  Wait, did I just say a fucking werewolf?!?

Fred Vargas

10 comentarios:

  1. I've not read vargas I know she is better known for her crime books this reminds me of those myths we have around the uk of wolves and werewolves. The most famous being Black shuck which has had a song made about it also a church in norfolk has claw marks on it;'s doors

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    1. Stu, this is actually one of Vargas' crime novels--just one told with elements of a road movie as the novel unfolds. Interesting to hear of all those UK wolves and werewolves myths, which I'm not all familiar with!

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  2. Maybe not the best? I have a couple of her books but ashamed to say have not tried yet, though I'm really intrigued and she is THE thriller woman writer in France. I'd lie to try the first in that series, L'homme aux cercles bleus, but also her latest: Temps glaciaires. Do you know you can read lots of long excerpts here. see: http://www.epagine.fr/ebook/9782081364141-temps-glaciaires-fred-vargas/ And do you know this amazing tv program, La grande librairie. Here is the one where she was invited (with Ferrari!) and spoke about her latest book: http://www.france5.fr/emissions/la-grande-librairie/diffusions/05-03-2015_356584. Enjoy!

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    1. I had meant to read the first in the Adamsberg mysteries rather than this one, Emma, but I either couldn't find it at my local bookstore at the time or made a mistake over which novel was first in the series, I can't remember. In any event, I thought this novel was OK and even pretty good in places in terms of the plot and for sure the characters' actions were also a lot more plausible, more "lifelike" if you will, in comparison with many of the thrillers I've read the past few years. Merci beaucoup for that info about La grande librairie. I look forward to checking that out. À bientot!

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  3. I guess that this was partially inspired by the Beast of Gevaudan story? Elements of your description remind me of it.

    I think folks believing that strange murders might be the work of werewolves or other supernatural events is plausible. When I talk to people in real life about events it is amazing the things that they believe.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing that Beast of Gévaudan tidbit, Brian! I wasn't aware of that affair until you mentioned it, but it does sound somewhat likely to have been a possible influence on Vargas' story. Interesting! As far as Vargas goes, I thought she was pretty good at tapping into the wolf or werewolf hysteria. Many of her characters don't believe in the werewolf hypothesis, of course, but of those who do, not all are dumb "rustics" or anything like that. Too bad the ending was kind of lame is all.

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  4. I've read one of her books though I cannot recall the title. It was not this one. My reaction to her was about the same as yours. Overall good enough to read and enjoy to the end, but still problematic. I might read more, I might not. Probably not.

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    1. I'll probably give Vargas another try at some point, James, but suffice it to say that I don't get the fawning attention she's received elsewhere. Your reaction seems more on the mark. Meh.

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  5. I haven't read anything by Fred Vargas but her name keeps cropping up across various blogs. Shame this one didn't quite hit the spot...I enjoyed your review, though! Will you try another at some point?

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    1. Thanks, Jacqui. Although I don't at all understand the Vargas phenomenon--some bloggers seem to think she's the greatest thing since sliced bread in the thriller department--I'll probably try something else by her at some point. At the very least, there are far more painful ways to improve/increase one's French vocabulary than by reading a semi-decent mystery/thriller!

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