Written under the pen name of Fred Vargas, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec is a great blending of traditional crime sprinkled with elements of the supernatural. The protagonist is the French Commissaire, Adamsberg, and this novel is number 9 in a series of books that feature him. Though it’s usually a good idea to start a series from the beginning, you don’t miss out on any crucial information by skipping ahead a few books to this fantastic instalment, although you won’t have a full picture of Adamsberg’s character without reading the others in the series first. Fred Vargas has delivered another great genre defying read that keep receiving positive review after positive review, so this isn’t a modern crime novel that you’ll want to miss out on (full list here).
Adamsberg finds himself in his most fitting territory of the backwaters of Normandy. He almost blends in with the cast of obscure French aristocrats and octogenarian spinsters who are surrounded by a group of varied locals.
He soon finds himself accompanied by a woman who comes from the small town of Ordebec who brings with her the story of a murder that’s rife with mythical overtones. After a local hunter goes missing; an event which appeared to have been witnessed ahead of time by the visitation of “the Furious Army”, a horde of phantoms that hail from the Middle Ages in seek out those who harbour evil secrets. If ever a victim is seen being held by them, they tend to turn up having been butchered in some form of horrible manner.
Gaining a new assistant who is adamant on the supernatural involvement in the killing, Adamsberg finds himself having to perform the investigating constantly hampered by those whose beliefs differ greatly from his. While Adamsberg doesn’t have jurisdiction in Normandy, he doesn’t let this minor technicality stop him from performing a thorough investigating that his reputation is based on. As he struggles to unpack some long running feuds in his pursuit of the truth, as well as trying to combat the fast-growing rumors, the plot unfolds like skilfully crafted origami and is guaranteed to have to glued to each page until you reach the final page.
This modern crime novel certainly isn’t your standard affair, and it well worthy of being read more than once before being discussed with friends. Filled with what readers have come to expect from any Fred Vargas novel, namely a mix of humor and great plotting, this novel is sure to find its home on many a great crime lovers shelf. If you find that you like this book, then you’ll be equally as thrilled by any of Fred Vargas’ other novels that feature Adamsberg as the protagonist.