The Wild Hunt or Furious Army (L’Armee furieuse) by Fred Vargas

L’Armee furieuse (Vivane Hamy, 2011) is Fred Vargas’ last novel featuring Paris police commissioner Jean-Pierre Adamsberg. It has just been released in Spain under the title, El Ejército Furioso (Siruela, 2011), translated by Anne-Hélène Suárez Girard.

Summary: It’s business as usual for Chief inspector Adamsberg at the crime squad. Although Veyrenc, his former Pyrenees arch rival is keeping his distance, the rest of the team are plodding along….Rettancourt that great bundle of energy. ‘La Boule’ the cat asleep on the photocopier as usual. Danglard with his glass of white wine spouting erudition. Mercadet still half asleep. Froissy backwards and forwards between his food stash and his office. A little old lady is waiting for the Chief inspector outside on the pavement. She has come all the way from Normandy. She doesn’t have an appointment and wants to speak especially to him. One night in her village, her daughter saw the ‘Armée furieuse’, an army of living dead who have returned to snatch sinners from the surrounding areas. Murderers, thieves, all those without a clear conscience feel threatened. The ancient legend is the harbinger of a spate of killings. Although far from his usual beat, Adamsberg agrees to take on the investigation in a village terrorised by superstitions and wild rumours. Helped by the local police, by his son (that he discovered in ‘An Uncertain Place’), and a handful of accomplices, he sets off to protect the sinners from their untimely fate.

From Wikipedia:

‘The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, horses, hounds, etc., in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground, or just above it.

It has been variously referred to as Wilde Jagd (German: “wild hunt/chase”) or Wildes Heer (German: “wild host”), Herlaþing (Old English: “Herla’s assembly”), Woden’s Hunt, Herod’s Hunt, Cain’s Hunt, the Devil’s Dandy Dogs (in Cornwall), Gabriel’s Hounds (in northern England), Ghost Riders (in North America), Mesnée d’Hellequin (Old North French: “household of Hellequin“), Cŵn Annwn (Welsh: “hounds of Annwn”), divoká honba or štvaní (Czech: “wild hunt”, “baiting”), Dziki Gon or Dziki Łów (Polish), Oskoreia or Åsgårdsreia (Norwegian: “ride of Asgard”), Estantiga (from Hoste Antiga, Galician: “the old army”), Hostia, Compaña and Santa Compaña (“troop, company”) in Galicia, and güestia in Asturias.

Seeing the Wild Hunt was thought to presage some catastrophe such as war or plague, or at best the death of the one who witnessed it.