Have Mercy on Us All - Fred Vargas How to can you not like a detective who supervises 26 other homicide flics and needs to use mnemonics such as acne, prognathous, solicitude, Marcel to associate names with faces, and who indulges in self-examination along the lines of "You think you're a million miles away from the likes of Favre, and when occasion arises, there you are puddling about in the same pigsty." I won't provide any hints as to the nature of Favre because you should read the book. It's that good.

Chief Inspector Adamsberg and his assistant Danglard are a study in contrast. Adamsberg uses intuition while Danglard never trusts it and relies on facts and evidence. The two make a marvelous pair.

A modern town crier who collects little notes anonymously and then reads them from his soapbox in return for small change has been getting what appear to be nonsensical sentences. A woman comes to the police station to complain that someone has painted black backwards 4's with a fat foot and two little notches at the end 24 of the doors on her street. These are the beginnings of a nightmare for the inspector as the possibility of someone deliberately sprwading the plague begins to haunt him.

This is a very crafty police procedural that intertwines fear, revenge, tragedy, panic and faith in a complex story. Fred Vargas, a woman, writes in French and their are moments when one wonders a little about the translation (I have enormous respect for translators.) My French is so rusty I hesitate to quibble.