This Night’s Foul Work

Sunday, 5 June 2011 

Taking a glance along the bookshelves there are a number of series represented in (almost) their entirety. In most cases they're, predictably, based around a central character who has some significant degree of eccentricity.

It's easy enough to base a series around a character who's basically a decent bloke (in most cases the key character's male, with Alafair Burke's books the significant exception to the rule) but that means he needs something to add an element of interest and continuity through the series. 

Peter Robinson's D.I. Banks, for example, has his music while Stephen Booth's Ben Cooper has his family and the on-going prickly interaction with DS Diane Fry, who has her own issues to deal with.

But then you have the central characters who have their, shall we say, eccentricities. 

James Lee Burke's Dave Robichaux and Burke's other key characters have their interactions between alcohol and their pasts, all of which have elements that are going to drive them. 

George Pelecanos has an ongoing and intersecting circle of Washington-based sociopaths, most with an interest in music and a background of substance issues if not actual abuse.

Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen has his quirks as far as diet and other matters are concerned as he tries to manoeuvre himself into a comfortable sinecure, something that he never quite manages to achieve.

There are a few of them that are pretty much out there. 

Kinky Friedman and the Greenwich Village Irregulars, Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano and his merry men and Colin Cotterill's Dr Siri and his social circle being prime examples, but when it comes to characters that are way out there where the buses don't run there aren't too many that are further out there than Fred Vargas' Superintendent Jean Baptiste Adamsberg.

Adamsberg's the leader of a ragtag twenty-seven strong assembly of oddballs, including the alcoholic single father and walking encyclopedia Danglard, the formidably substantial Violette Retancourt and a variety of others who all have some degree of obsessive compulsive disorder with walk on roles for his on and off girlfriend, plumber and musician Camille, mother of his son and recurring source of strange situations.

This Night's Foul Work is the fifth in the Adamsberg series, following on not long after Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand. After a few weeks off work, a new home which may or may not be haunted by a ghost who may or may not only have it in for women there are a couple of new players as Adamsberg engages in the demarcation dispute with the drug squad that's the starting point of another highly coincidental plot line.

He needs an ally to keep the investigation into the possibly drug-related deaths of two large men within his own Serious Crime Squad bailiwick, and the most obvious ally is leading pathologist Ariane Lagarde. There's a back story to their interaction here, involving a clash of opinions over a previous case Ariane had categorized as suicide which Adamsberg, correctly as it turned out, saw as murder.

There's also a back story to the newest member of Adamsberg's team The New Recruit, whose home in the Pyrenees is the village next door to Adamsberg's. Eight-year-old Veyrenc was attacked by a gang of four toughs from that village while a fifth boy looked on, and it's soon obvious the on-looker was Adamsberg.


© Ian Hughes 2012