cover image The Accordionist

The Accordionist

Fred Vargas, trans. from the French by Siân Reynolds. Harvill Secker (IPG dist.), $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-846559-98-3

Vargas’s stunning conclusion to her Three Evangelists trilogy (after Dog Will Have His Day) rewards the careful reader. In the summer of 1997, Paris is preoccupied with a killer who has attacked two seemingly random female victims, strangling them before stabbing them multiple times. The police are zeroing in on a street musician, the accordionist of the title, who admits to spying on the dead women for several days before the murders. The suspect, Clément Vauquer, although mentally impaired, is aware of his jeopardy, and seeks out his one friend in the world, Marthe Gardel, an elderly woman who took him under her wing during his childhood. Marthe, in turn, reaches out to Louis Kehlweiler, a retired Ministry of the Interior investigator, who’s eager for a distraction from his paid work as a translator. Aided by three eccentric historians, Louis undertakes to clear Clément, despite the circumstantial evidence against him. Vargas combines humor, oddball characters, and a classic puzzle mystery for another winner. (Apr.)