Wednesday, December 21, 2011
NEW STUFF: An Uncertain Place - Fred Vargas
Randomness has no place and there are no coincidences. In a Keeler book, for example, the works of George Barr McCutcheon, a mysterious violin playing thief, and the science of acoustics all come together in the plot of The Mystery of the Fiddling Cracksman. A man eating a bowl of chow mein nearly chokes on a tiny hand made of jade in The Green Jade Hand, but the scene is not there merely to make us laugh it will have some greater importance to the story. Similarly, with Vargas the birth of a kitten is not thrown into the story offhandedly for cuteness factor; it will have repercussions throughout the entire novel. Likewise other events and discussions that seem to be mentioned in passing -- a brief talk about a man who decided to eat his wooden wardrobe piece by piece, the macabre history of Highgate Cemetery including what was discovered when the body of Dante Rossetti's wife was exhumed nine years after her death -- all have later ramifications in this hypnotically addictive book.
The ripple effect begins when Adamsberg who is in England for an international police conference quite by accident stumbles across a bizarre crime. Eighteen pairs of shoes have been found in front of Highgate Cemetery. And the shoes still contain feet. They have all been cut from nine different corpses and none of them are English. The shoes show signs of Eastern European manufacture and many of them are decades old. It appears that the feet have been collected over a period of years. But who on earth has dismembered several dead bodies and placed their feet in front of a cemetery with a past of legendary proportions? What have those feet do to with the horribly mutilated corpse of a reclusive Frenchman whose body quite literally was chopped up to tiny bits? Why are so many variations of a single name continually turning up in the course of the investigation - Plogerstein, Plögener, Plogoff, Plogodrescu.These names become so prevalent that one of the characters coins the term "Plog" as an exclamation denoting significance or surprise.
Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg will face one of the most unusual criminals in his career. He will discover that nearly everything in his life will be related to the solution of the crime. The people he encounters and takes for granted will play major roles. And most importantly he will discover that a long forgotten night in his past will come back to haunt him with a startling revelation. The less said about the wild fantastical plot the better.