Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas

Seeking Whom He May Devour (Commissaire Adamsberg, #2)Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s a bit difficult rating this book because it’s a translation from the French. I’m not sure whether the weaknesses are primarily those of the author or the translator. Ultimately, the book didn’t work for me. It’s promoted as an Inspector Adamsberg mystery, but he doesn’t make a substantial appearance until two-thirds of the way through the book. The main character is Camille, his erstwhile lover, who is shacked up with a tall, handsome Canadian naturalist studying the wild wolves of the Pyrenees. The village they reside in is in sheep farming country.

After several local sheep are savaged, left dead with throats ripped out by a wolf of enormous size (based on the fang marks), some of the more superstitious villagers think it is a werewolf. Soon thereafter Suzanne, a beloved local figure, is killed the same way. The suspicion then turns to a shadowy figure named Massart who has disappeared. He is known to have a huge mastiff. These killings are followed by more sheep killings and then killings of men throughout the countryside. Camille sets off in a stinky lorry with Solimon, a black adoptee of Suzanne’s, and Watchee, an old man who also loved Suzanne, to track down Massart. The two men are both quite odd in their own ways and the conversations that occur on this road trip are bizarre and clumsy. I think the story was meant to be humorous or something of a farce, but I’m not sure. It may have just been bad translation. It never sounded like English-speakers talking. Even the title is bad. It’s a phrase taken from a heated conversation about Massart’s (or the werewolf’s, or real wolf’s) intentions. Can you imagine speaking that phrase?

As if that were not enough, the ending was particularly irritating. It is one of those where the case is solved because the inspector is privy to information not shared with the reader until the end when he reveals the solution. Thus it is impossible to solve it before the big reveal.

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