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The Ghost Riders of Ordebec

Fred Vargas

‘People will die,' says the panic-stricken woman outside police headquarters.


She refuses to speak to anyone besides Commissaire Adamsberg. Her daughter has seen a vision: ghostly horsemen who target the most nefarious characters in Normandy. Since the middle ages there have been stories of murderers, rapists, those with serious crimes on their conscience, meeting a grisly end following a visitation by the riders.


Soon after the young woman's vision a notoriously vicious and cruel man disappears. Although the case is far outside his jurisdiction, Adamsberg agrees to investigate the strange happenings in a village terrorised by wild rumours and ancient feuds.

It seems a long wait between any new additions to the Commissaire Adamsberg series, but when they do arrive they are always a treat and give the reader a slightly offbeat approach to the crime fiction novel. In the seventh book in the series, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec [L'armee furieuse in the original French edition] Adamsberg and his quirky crew face two cases.

A rich Parisian industrialist has been torched in his car and a convenient suspect, serial arsonist Momo, is available, but the intuitive Adamsberg believes he is innocent and goes to great lengths to prove it.Meanwhile a little old lady has come to the capital from a village in Normandy to tell Adamsberg that her daughter Lina Vendermot has had a vision of a ghostly army of riders lead by Lord Hellequin carrying along three terrified victims that she can identify, and one she can’t.

When the intrigued Adamsberg learns more about the legend of the Furious Army which is said to have roamed the countryside chasing the damned souls of evil people to Hell, he travels to Ordebec discovering that the first of those evil victims has been murdered.

Adamsberg’s investigative team has always been a sandwich short of a picnic, but in this story, the walking encyclopaedia Danglard, the narcoleptic Mercadet, the Alexandrine quoting poet Veyrenc and the statuesque goddess Retancourt seem almost normal alongside the crazy Vendermot family of Ordebec. But in Ordebec almost everyone has a personal story to tell some of which contain clues and some merely red herrings.

With Zerk, Adamsberg’s newly discovered son, and Momo looking after Hebbeaud, a tortured pigeon, while on the run from the authorities [Momo not the pigeon]; six fingered hands, crossbows, men made of clay, sugar lumps and the distracting beauty of Lina, this is one of Adamsberg’s most complex, but engaging adventures.

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec is original, full of Gallic charm, eccentric, slightly confusing in a nice way, and one of those books that you don’t want to finish because it should be enjoyed slowly like a fine wine. In a genre where sometimes one feels that there is nothing new to interest the reader Fred Vargas always manages to provide intelligent entertainment while dealing with varied human emotions.

Review by Norman Price, CRIME SCRAPS REVIEW

About Fred Vargas:

Fred Vargas is the pen name of Frederique Audoin-Rouzeau, a medieval historian and archaeologist. She has won the CWA International Dagger three times.



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