cover image A Climate of Fear

A Climate of Fear

Fred Vargas, trans. from the French by Siân Reynolds. Penguin, $16 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-14-310945-7

In Vargas’s captivating eighth Commissaire Adamsberg mystery (after 2013’s The Ghost Riders of Ordebec), the dreamily brilliant Paris police commissioner, assisted by his baffled, balky team of underlings, investigates the deaths of members of the Association for the Study of the Writings of Maximilien Robespierre, a group devoted to studying the French Revolution. The first victim, Alice Gauthier, ran a bath, took off her shoes, climbed into the water fully clothed, and then apparently slit her wrists, but Adamsberg suspects foul play. A decade earlier, Gauthier made an ill-fated trip to an island off of Iceland. When the second victim turns out to have been on the same trip, Adamsberg is sure there’s a link between the present-day murders and a tragedy that occurred on the Icelandic island back then. Acting on his intuition, the policeman decides to lead an expedition to the island, reputed to be haunted by an Arctic demon, in the hope of finding some answers. Vargas keeps introducing unexpected, fascinating new plot elements, even as the action totters on the brink of absurdity. (Mar.)