Author: Fred Vargas, 2011. Translated from the French by Sian Reynolds, 2013.
Genre: Euro Crime Fiction. Police Procedural. Gothic. Folklore.
Other Details: Hardback. 362 pages.
Its original title L'armée furieuse (The Furious Army) refers to a group of ghostly horsemen in Normandy who are said to target wrongdoers who have escaped justice. If someone living is seen in their company then legend says that they will soon meet a grizzly end. At the opening of the novel a distressed woman comes to police headquarters in Paris and insists on speaking to Commissaire Adamsberg. She relates to him that her daughter has seen a vision of these ghostly riders and one of the men she reported seeing with them, a notoriously cruel hunter, has since disappeared. She begs Adamsberg to come to Ordebec to investigate.
At first he refuses, especially as it is far outside his jurisdiction, but then a businessman is murdered in Paris. There is a convenient suspect but Adamsberg believes that the young man, who is well known to him, is innocent and is being framed for the crime. So he elects to travel to Ordebec to investigate the disappearance and then some subsequent murders while continuing to supervise from a distance a covert investigation into the Paris murder.
I adore this series of quirky, intelligent French police procedurals and especially the way in which Fred Vargas weaves in aspects of European folk lore into her plots. I was certainly entertained and intrigued by this mystery though it didn't quite come up to the standard of the last two in the series for me. I think this slight dip was mainly due to some of the complications of the murder case back in Paris.
It was also interesting to see how Adamsberg was coping with the major change in his personal life that took place in An Uncertain Place. Some crime series are easy to jump into mid-series but with this one there are a lot of quite subtle character back stories that are not really explained so without reading earlier books a newcomer to Vargas would likely feel lost.