Review; The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas


Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Vintage, 2010 (Paperback Edition). First published in Great Britain in 2009 by Harvill Secker. Translated from the French by Siân Reynolds. First published with the title L’Homme aux cercles bleus in 1996. ISBN: 978-0-099-48897-2. 256 pages.

The Chalk Circle Man is the first book featuring Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. Originally published in 1996, it was translated into English in 2009 by Siân Reynolds and won that same year the CWA Duncan Lawrie International Dagger.

When we first meet Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg “he had just been appointed to Paris ‘commissaire’ of the Police headquarters in the 5th ‘arrondissement’. And on day twelve, he is on his way to his new office, on foot.”

“As a child, Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg had run around barefoot in the stony foothills of the Pyrenees. …. In the police station where he had started working at twenty-five, they had called him ‘the wild child’.”

“So the wild child who had solved four murders found himself promoted to inspector, then to ‘commissaire’, but he was still inclined to doodle for hours, resting pieces of paper on his knees, scoring the fabric of his nondescript trousers. Two weeks ago, he had been offered a posting to Paris. He had left behind him office walls covered with graffiti which he had scribbled there over the last twenty years, without ever getting tired of life.”    

Of his inspectors at present, his favourite was Adrien Danglard, a man who dressed impeccably in order to compensate for his unprepossessing looks and pear-shaped figure. Danglard like a drink and didn’t seem too reliable after about four in the afternoon, or even earlier sometimes.”

Soon Adamsberg will surprise everyone by the way he solves the murder of a jeweller. But then, for no apparent reason, Adamsberg begins to collect newspaper clippings about a strange phenomenon. For the last four months, someone has been drawing large circles in blue chalk around whatever rubbish is lying on the city’s pavements: twelve bottle taps, an orange-box, four paper clips, two shoes, a magazine, a leather handbag, four cigarette lighters, a handkerchief, a pigeon’s claw,  …etc. One of the most intriguing aspects of the case is the small message written around the edge of every circle: ‘Victor, woe’s in store, what are you out here for?‘ So far The Chalk Circle Man seems harmless but when a dead mouse appears in one of the circles, Adamsberg believes that things might get worst. His intuition doesn’t deceive him. Shortly after the body of a woman appears in one of the circles with her throat savagely cut.  

I love the characters in this series, Adamsberg in particular, and I find them all fascinating. In addition I believe that the arguments are extremely original and, in my view, is a pleasure to read Vargas’ books. It’s funny to note that no one is usually neutral with her novels, you either like or you dislike them, but very rarely leave people indifferent. I have personally enjoyed very much The Chalk Circle Man, probably it’s not the best in the series and I have already read most of them, but I do not hesitate to recommend this book.

My rating: B (I really like it) 

The Chalk Circle Man has been reviewed at Euro Crime (Fiona), Euro Crime (Michelle), Mysteries in Paradise (Kerrie), Reviewing the Evidence (Yvonne), Petrona (Maxine), Ms Wordopolis Reads (Rebecca), Detectives Beyond Borders (Peter), The Crime Segments (NancyO), Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… (Margot). Norman at Crime Scraps Review has several posts written about this book, HERE, HERE and HERE.

The complete series is formed by the following titles, without taking into account her graphic novels and her short stories.

  • 1996 – L’Homme aux cercles bleus; English translation: The Chalk Circle Man 2009 (International Dagger award); Spanish title: El hombre de los círculos azules, trad. de Helena del Amo, ed. Siruela en 2007.
  • 1999 – L’Homme à l’envers; English translation: Seeking Whom He May Devour, 2004, (Prix Mystère de la critique); Spanish title: El hombre al revés, trad. de Pilar González, ed. Espasa Calpe en 2001, y trad. de Anne-Hélène Suárez, publicada por Siruela en 2011.
  • 2001 – Pars vite et reviens tard; English translation: Have Mercy on Us All, 2003, (Prix des libraires); Spanish title: Huye rápido, vete lejos, trad. de Blanca Riestra, ed. Siruela en 2003.
  • 2004 – Sous les vents de Neptune; English translation: Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand, 2007 (International Dagger winner); Spanish title: Bajo los vientos de Neptuno, trad. de Aurelio Crespo, ed. Siruela en 2006
  • 2006 – Dans les bois éternels; English translation: This Night’s Foul Work, 2008; Spanish title: La tercera virgen, trad. de Anne-Hélène Suárez, ed. Siruela en 2008.
  • 2008 – Un lieu incertain; English translation: An Uncertain Place, 2011; Spanish title: Un lugar incierto, trad. de Anne-Hélène Suárez, ed. Siruela en 2010.
  • 2011 – L’armée furieuse; English title: The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, 2013 (International Dagger Award); Spanish title: El ejército furioso, trad. de Anne-Hélène Suárez, ed. Siruela en 2011.

Harvill Secker

Éditions Viviane Hamy (France)

Vintage Books

Penguin Books US

Reading Guide

Official author site (French)

El hombre de los círculos azules, de Fred Vargas

Portada de El hombre de los círculos azules

El hombre de los círculos azules es el primer libro de la serie protagonizada por el comisario Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. Publicado originalmente en 1996, fue traducido al inglés en el 2009 por Siân Reynolds y ganó ese mismo año el Premio CWA Duncan Lawrie Internacional Dagger.

Cuando nos encontramos con Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg “le habian nombrado comisario en París, en el distrito 5. A pie se dirigía a su nuevo despacho, en el que llevaba doce días.”

“Jean-Baptiste había recorrido descalzo las pedregosas montañas de los Bajos Pirineos. …. En la comisaría en la que se habia estrenado a los veinticinco años decían que estaba «asilvestrado».”

“Así, al niño asilvestrado de los cuatro asesinatos le habían acabado nombrando inspector y luego comisario, mientras seguía garabateando durante horas dibujitos sobre las rodillas, sobre sus deformados pantalones. Hacía quince días le habían ofrecido París. Entonces dejó tras él su despacho lleno de inscripciones que había escrito a lápiz durante veinte años, sin que la vida le agotara jamás.”

“Su inspector preferido, de momento, era Adrien Danglard, un hombre no muy guapo, muy bien vestido, con el vientre y el culo bajos, que bebía bastante y no parecía muy fiable después de las cuatro de la tarde, y a veces antes.”

Pronto Adamsberg sorprenderá a todo el mundo por la forma en que resuelve el asesinato de un joyero. Pero luego, sin ninguna razón aparente, Adamsberg comienza a recopilar recortes de prensa acerca de un extraño fenómeno. Durante los últimos cuatro meses, alguien ha estado dibujando grandes círculos en tiza azul alrededor de restos de basura tirados sobre la acera de la ciudad: doce chapas de botellas, una caja de naranjas, cuatro clips, dos zapatos, una revista, un bolso de cuero, cuatro encendedores, un pañuelo, la pata de una paloma, etc … Uno de los aspectos más inquietantes del caso es el pequeño mensaje escrito alrededor del borde de cada círculo: «Victor, mala suerte, ¿qué haces fuera?» Hasta ahora El hombre de los círculos azules parece inofensivo pero Adamsberg cree que las cosas podrían empeorar cuando aparece un ratón muerto en uno de los círculos. Su intuición no le engaña, poco después, el cuerpo de una mujer aparece brutalmente degollada en uno de los círculos.

Me encantan los personajes de esta serie, Adamsberg en particular, y les encuentro a todos ellos fascinantes. Además creo que los argumentos son extremadamente originales y, en mi opinión, es un placer leer los libros de Vargas. Es curioso observar que nadie suele ser neutral con sus novelas, o te gusta o te disgustan, pero muy rara vez dejan indiferente a nadie. Yo personalmente he disfrutado mucho con El hombre de los círculos azules, probablemente no es el mejor de la serie y ya he leído la mayoría de ellos, pero yo no dudaría en recomendar este libro.

Mi calificación: B (me ha gustado)

La serie completa está compuesta por los siguientes títulos, sin tener en cuenta las novelas gráficas y las historias cortas:

  • 1996 – L’Homme aux cercles bleus; English translation: The Chalk Circle Man 2009 (International Dagger award); En catellano: El hombre de los círculos azules, trad. de Helena del Amo, ed. Siruela en 2007.
  • 1999 – L’Homme à l’envers; English translation: Seeking Whom He May Devour, 2004, (Prix Mystère de la critique); En catellano: El hombre al revés, trad. de Pilar González, ed. Espasa Calpe en 2001, y trad. de Anne-Hélène Suárez, publicada por Siruela en 2011.
  • 2001 – Pars vite et reviens tard; English translation: Have Mercy on Us All, 2003, (Prix des libraires); En catellano: Huye rápido, vete lejos, trad. de Blanca Riestra, ed. Siruela en 2003.
  • 2004 – Sous les vents de Neptune; English translation: Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand, 2007 (International Dagger winner); En catellano: Bajo los vientos de Neptuno, trad. de Aurelio Crespo, ed. Siruela en 2006
  • 2006 – Dans les bois éternels; English translation: This Night’s Foul Work, 2008; En catellano: La tercera virgen, trad. de Anne-Hélène Suárez, ed. Siruela en 2008.
  • 2008 – Un lieu incertain; English translation: An Uncertain Place, 2011; En catellano: Un lugar incierto, trad. de Anne-Hélène Suárez, ed. Siruela en 2010.
  • 2011 – L’armée furieuse; English title: The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, 2013 (International Dagger Award); En catellano: El ejército furioso, trad. de Anne-Hélène Suárez, ed. Siruela en 2011.

El comisario Adamsberg, o cuando la intuición es una maldición

Punto de lectura

Ediciones Siruela

23 thoughts on “Review; The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

  1. José Ignacio – Thank you for the kind mention. I’m glad you enjoyed this novel. Like you, I believe the characters add much richness to this series. As you say, few people are neutral about these novels, but to me, they are very well-written, and if you are willing to look at things in a sometimes surreal kind of way, it works very well.

    • Thank you Margot. Agree with you that the series gets much better with the addition of new characters. An it certainly works very well at the end, despite that surreal touch.

  2. I agree with your general comments about the series, and they are valid for the books I’ve read outside the series. “Surreal” fits, too.

  3. I could not get into this book, and temporarily gave up on the series. Then after seeing so many good reviews and comments, I tried the 2nd book, Seeking Whom He May Devour, and liked it a lot. I will continue with the series.

  4. I fall on the side that loves Fred Vargas’ books starring Commissaire Adamsberg and his team. Although The Chalk Circle Man was not my favorite in the series, it’s still above the level of many mysteries, with a lot of the writer’s usual creativity at play. What writer can top Vargas’ creativity, brilliance, quirkiness?

    • Agree with you Kathy, but as an introduction to the series I think The Chlak Circle Man is essential for a better understanding of Adamsberg, his relationship with Danglard and Camille.

  5. Thanks for the mention. I’ve read this one and the most recently translated one, which was quite a jump, but they were both interesting books. I don’t find them to be too quirky, but plenty of people disagree with me.

    • I imagine that by quirkiness, one refers more to the character, Adamsberg, than to the book, Rebecca. As I said before I belive, in general, that the series improves with the time.

    • Rebecca just for clarification. Vargas tends to add a small surreal touch that, at the end, fits pretty well in the story and, ultimately, it’s quite logical and acceptable from a rational perspective.

  6. Aunque disfruto de los libros de Fred Vargas, tengo que reconocer que el punto sobrenatural que tienen a veces me deja un poco descolocada. Eso sí, los personajes son todos interesantísimos!

    • Gracias por tu comentario Maite. Como he señalado antes ese punto sobrenatural pienso que encaja muy bien en la historia. La solución además termina siendo completamente lógica y aceptable desde una perspectiva racional. En mi opinión, claro está.🙂

      • Sí, si no fuera porque lo sobrenatural no pasa de accesorio quizás me costaria más. Pero coincido contigo que, al final, las cosas tienen lógica…

  7. It’s not just Adamsberg who’s quirky. It’s the plots. It’s the set-up of the murders, the backstory, the clues, the possible murder method. There’s a “wolf” committing murders in one book set in the French mountains, a town crier and possible bubonic plague murder weapon in another, a Serbian vampire family, chalk circle clues, a 15th-century psalm, a lieutenant who speaks in 12-syllable Alexandrine verse, a Medieval angry army. Lots of quirky, creative elements not found in any other author’s writings. More power to Fred Vargas. Her ingenuity is what I love.

  8. Pingback: Monthly Summary (March 2014) | The Game's Afoot

  9. Pingback: Review: Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas | The Game's Afoot

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