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The Chalk Circle Man (1991)

by Fred Vargas

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Chief Inspector Adamsberg (1), Komisario Adamsberg - mysteeri (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,5037910,723 (3.56)174
Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is not like other policemen. His methods appear unorthodox in the extreme: he doesn't search for clues; he ignores obvious suspects and arrests people with iron-clad alibis; he appears permanently distracted. The Chalk Circle Man is the first book featuring Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, one of the most engaging characters in contemporary detective fiction. When strange, blue chalk circles start appearing overnight on the pavements of Paris, the press take up the story with amusement and psychiatrists trot out their theories. Adamsberg is alone in thinking this is not a game and far from amusing. He insists on being kept informed of new circles and the increasingly bizarre objects which they contain: empty beer cans, four trombones, a pigeon's foot, four cigarette lighters, a badge proclaiming "I Love Elvis," a hat, a doll's head. Adamsberg senses the cruelty that lies behind these seemingly random occurrences. Soon a circle with decidedly less banal contents is discovered: the body of a woman with her throat savagely cut. Adamsberg knows that other murders will follow. "From the Hardcover edition."… (more)
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» See also 174 mentions

English (60)  Spanish (6)  French (5)  Italian (3)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Vargas' eccentric detective, Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is the main attraction in this novel, as well as the strange plot in which random discarded items have been circled with blue chalk on the streets of Paris. His investigation method is not one mystery readers - or his colleagues - are familiar with, as Adamsberg quietly considers each bizarre event, knowing instinctively that there is more to these strange things. Only when a body is found in a blue circle is the mystery taken seriously. ( )
  VivienneR | Oct 9, 2022 |
This book found its way into my hand in a used bookstore. Blurb on the back, a review from the Winnipeg Free Press says, "Quirky, bizarre, riveting, irresistible, utterly French...Vargas is perhaps the best mystery writer on the planet."

Well. After that, the moody book jacket design (I picked the wrong cover here--I have the blue one with the man on the shadowy street) and the cheap price, it came home with me. We stopped for takeout on the way, and while waiting, I cracked into it. Before the food was ready, I was thoroughly hooked.

The Winnipeg review is accurate in the quirky and bizarre. The characters and dialog are all that.

This was the kind of book, for me, where usual duties might have to wait. The sink can fill with dishes, the laundry can sit...all waiting for me to finish the book. I will say that a LOT of information was withheld until the end; the plot was sinuous; I might have guessed who but not why... and I'm itching to get more Vargas, elated to know that there is more to come. ( )
  JEatHHP | Aug 23, 2022 |
Newly arrived in Paris as commissaire of the 5th arrondissement, Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is troubled by the mysterious actions of the “chalk circle man.” Once or twice a week in different sections of Paris, someone discovers a chalk circle drawn around an inanimate object, always with the same saying surrounding the circle. Adamsberg senses something cruel behind the action. He is drawn to oceanographer Mathilde Forestier, as odd in her own way as he is, and who seems to have more knowledge of the chalk circle man than anyone else in Paris. Events finally prove Adamsberg’s concern justified, as one day a body is discovered inside a chalk circle.

This is a satisfyingly complex mystery peopled with quirky characters, including the neurodiverse Commissaire Adamsberg. The scholars/academics in the book are convincing, perhaps because the author herself is a historian and archaeologist. Adamsberg’s physical description and some of his mannerisms remind me of Peter Falk’s Columbo. I think a lot of Columbo fans would enjoy meeting Adamsberg as much as I did. ( )
  cbl_tn | Feb 6, 2022 |
Looking around for a new series, and was intrigued by Fred Vargas. However, I did not care for the slow pace and writing style, which may be Vargas or her translator. Someone is drawing chalk circles on the streets of Paris. Objects appear in the circles, worrying Commmissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, and then a dead body is in one of the circles. Adamsberg has an odd air about him, seeming to follow unorthodox lines of inquiry. I liked his #2 Danglard. 2.5 stars, rounded up. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
Chief Inspector Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg has recently been transferred to Paris. His police methods aren’t exactly standard procedure and his inspectors have a lot to get used to. But they can have no doubt that he is a born policeman, and while even he is unable to explain how he arrives at his conclusions he is usually correct. In this case he thinks that there is something strange about the blue chalk circles that have been appearing in the Parisian streets. He is convinced that there is something sinister about them.

This is the fifth book by Vargas that I’ve read, and loved, but the English translations appear to be published out of order. This is the book that introduces us to Adamsberg and Danglard, but other books featuring them have already appeared in print. That sort of thing annoys me, why not translate them in order? Still, it was nice to go back and see how they got to know each other, if anyone can be said to “know” Adamsberg.

Full review: http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2010/05/15/the-chalk-circle-man ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fred Vargasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Amo, Helena delTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bruchard, Dorothée deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chen, ZhenmeiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elligers, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoger, HanneloreNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Luoma, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melaouah, YasminaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Öztürk, DenizTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pavlič, JanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pollé, RosaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reynolds, SiânTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saʻīd, SaḥarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scheffel, TobiasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szeżyńska-Maćk… KrystynaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tang, JesperTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarusinoĭ, E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torcal, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yang, Yŏng-nanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mathilde took out her diary and wrote: 'The man sitting next to me has got one hell of a nerve.'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is not like other policemen. His methods appear unorthodox in the extreme: he doesn't search for clues; he ignores obvious suspects and arrests people with iron-clad alibis; he appears permanently distracted. The Chalk Circle Man is the first book featuring Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, one of the most engaging characters in contemporary detective fiction. When strange, blue chalk circles start appearing overnight on the pavements of Paris, the press take up the story with amusement and psychiatrists trot out their theories. Adamsberg is alone in thinking this is not a game and far from amusing. He insists on being kept informed of new circles and the increasingly bizarre objects which they contain: empty beer cans, four trombones, a pigeon's foot, four cigarette lighters, a badge proclaiming "I Love Elvis," a hat, a doll's head. Adamsberg senses the cruelty that lies behind these seemingly random occurrences. Soon a circle with decidedly less banal contents is discovered: the body of a woman with her throat savagely cut. Adamsberg knows that other murders will follow. "From the Hardcover edition."

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The first novel in this critically acclaimed series, The Chalk Circle Man introduces the irresistibly unorthodox detective Commissaire Adamsberg — one of the most engaging characters in contemporary crime fiction.

When blue chalk circles begin to appear on the pavement in neighborhoods in Paris, Adamsberg is alone in thinking that they are far from amusing. As he studies each new circle and the increasingly bizarre objects they contain — empty beer cans, four trombones, a pigeon's foot, a doll's head — he senses the cruelty that lies within whoever is responsible. And when a circle is discovered with decidedly less banal contents — a woman with her throat slashed — Adamsberg knows that this is just the beginning.

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