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The Ghost Riders of Ordebec: A Commissaire Adamsberg Mystery    by Fred Vargas order for
Ghost Riders of Ordebec
by Fred Vargas
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2013 (2013)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Fred Vargas's French series features the highly intuitive Paris Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his delightfully eccentric associates. The plots are all unusual, each very different from the one before, and Adamsberg always manages to get himself into some some sort of trouble as he glimpses trails invisible to all around him. The Ghost Riders of Ordebec is just as entertaining as its predecessors.

Adamsberg takes on several cases this time, though the first, involving an old woman's death and a trail of breadcrumbs, is by far the easiest. Next he's consulted by a woman who has come all the way to Paris from Ordebec in Normandy, to convince him to investigate a man's disappearance and murders that have not happened yet. The woman is convinced that they loom because her daughter Lina saw the Furious Army, aka Great Hunt the Ghost Riders, all known to single out unpunished villains. Adamsberg is reluctant to get involved but contacts the area's capitaine of gendarmes, Louis Nicolas Emeri, and goes there himself to scout out the territory.

In the meantime, a high profile case comes in close to home. Momo, a local pyromaniac is known to torch cars, but this time a car is burned with someone inside it. The dead man is head of the Clermont industrial group. There is a great deal of pressure to close the case quickly, but Adamsberg is certain that Momo did not do it. When Momo is brought in, Adamsberg risks his own career and his son Zerk, to keep Momo free while his subordinates find the real killer.

In Ordebec, Adamsberg befriends the very canny old woman, Léo, who found the body of the missing man. When Léo is attacked soon afterwards, Adamsberg becomes even more determined to sort it all out, even after he is warned that he will be next to die. Naturally, Adamsberg closes both these big cases. Along the way, he also identifies a kid who has been torturing pigeons (and rescues an avian victim).

You have to love a senior police officer who describes those who work for him as: 'a hypersomniac who goes to sleep without warning, a zoologist whose specialty is fish ... a woman with bulimia who keeps disappearing in search of food, an old heron who knows a lot of myths and legends, a walking encyclopedia who drinks white wine non-stop - and the rest to match.' If you like your mysteries quirky as they come, dive into this engaging series.

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