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This Night's Foul Work    by Fred Vargas order for
This Night's Foul Work
by Fred Vargas
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg returns to Paris, after his Canadian travails in Fred Vargas's previous Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand. Now, in This Night's Foul Work (translated from French by Sian Reynolds), we find him adjusting well to the occasional demands of fatherhood (he's able to put his baby son to sleep by simply touching his head, an enviable talent) while settling into his new (and supposedly haunted by a murderous nun) house, and persistently pursuing an investigation against the wishes of his peers and superior.

It begins with the murders of two small-time crooks whose throats were cut and who were believed to have been dealing drugs. The Drug Squad want to take over the investigation, but Jean-Baptiste needs to find out 'why they've got earth under their fingernails' - it's all in the details with Commissaire Adamsberg and he's more often proved right than wrong. His investigation of the case takes him to Normandy, more murders, and a seemingly unrelated puzzle, that of the slaughter of a stag in which the perpetrator cut out the heart.

There are additions to Adamsberg's set of delightfully quirky associates in this episode. Pathologist Dr. Roman, on leave due to an 'attack of the vapours', has been replaced by Ariane Lagarde. She and Jean-Baptiste came into conflict early in his career, but a mutual attraction lingers. And a new Lieutenant, who once lived in the next valley to his in the Pyrenees, has joined the Commissaire's team. Veyrenc, who often makes his points by declaiming dramatic verse, was viciously beaten by young thugs as a child and believes that Adamsberg played a role in the attack.

Soon Veyrenc is involved with Camille, the mother of Jean-Baptiste's new son. While the Lieutenant and Adamsberg work together, there is constant tension, filled with unanswered questions. Lieutenant Retancourt, who saved her boss from false arrest in Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand, also seems to have fallen under Veyrenc's sway. Danglard's jealousy prompts him to take an action that endangers lives. And it all culminates in a thrilling race against time in which Adamsberg and his team attempt to save one of their own.

This Night's Foul Work is another excellent entry in a most unusual police procedural series, starring a highly intuitive senior officer. Though I figured out the villain's identity well before the end this time, I thoroughly enjoyed riding along with the Serious Crime Squad and seeing Adamsberg accept his due reward of a great stag's antlers.

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