The starting point for the ride, once the scene has been set, is a collection of seventeen shoes, each containing a severed foot, apparently seeking admission to the cemetery. Danglard notices that some of the shoes are French, but Adamsberg cautions him against getting involves. Let the English handle it, and all that.

Back in Paris, there's a brutal murder in suburbia where the victim's body has been pulverized by a miscellaneous assortment of sharp, blunt and powered devices to the point where there's nothing left to identify him except for traces of DNA and there's some sort of logic behind the apparently random scattering of body parts around the crime scene.

The victim, a rich semi-retired legal-journalist who was not quite cordially disliked by almost everybody, including his son (who describes him as chateau-bottled shit), has left most of his fortune to his gardener, who happens to have a criminal record involving a number of violent offences, which naturally puts him straight into the frame.

Characteristically, Adamsberg doesn't think he did it and isn't inclined to expend too much energy when he escapes, having managed to disable two police guards.

Checks reveal a similar death in Austria, where the killer has been labelled Zerquetscher, the Crusher, an epithet Adamsberg diminished to Zerk, who eventually arrives in Adamsberg's home, claiming to be his son.

These things happen all the time when Adamsberg's about.

There are also the regulation complications among Adamsberg's squad, with Danglard distracted by Abstract and the usually efficient Inspector Mordent distracted by his teenage daughter, who's facing serious criminal charges and provides an excuse for someone to get at her father.

That someone, it seems, has contacts among the upper echelons of the French political and legal establishment and is in a position to conceal the identity of the culprit and simultaneously destroy Adamsberg’s career. 

Faced with that threat, Adamsberg makes himself scarce, heading to Serbia and a village close to the Romanian border, which turns out to be the victim's ancestral home and gives Vargas the chance to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of vampire-related folklore.

The sojourn also gives Adamsberg the chance to tie things together, though the vital clue, as usually happens, passes you unnoticed until the Aha! moment, when, of course, you find yourself wondering why you didn't notice that at the time.

Or at least, on this occasion wrapped up in the developing narrative, I did.

And that, I think is the point. An Adamsberg story develops throws up a bewildering range of apparently unrelated elements as Jean-Baptiste and his colleagues set about their investigations with Adamsberg adopting a scatter-gun approach and seemingly investigating everything that might be relevant and quite a bit that probably isn't but, in some cases, turns out to be.

If you're a fan of logical development through forensic analysis and standard procedures there's every chance Fred Vargas isn't quite your cup of tea. On the other hand, each of the Adamsberg stories has rolled along quite marvellously as a remarkable character and his inimitable squad wander through a surreal world that parallels reality but doesn't quite manage to exist within it.

An eighth title, L'armée furieuse is already out in France. Hopefully we're not looking at a repetition of the three years An Uncertain Place spent in translation. though these matters cannot and definitely should not be hurried.

© Ian Hughes 2012