Synopses & Reviews
In a small Parisian square, the ancient tradition of the town crier continues into modern times. The self-appointed crier, Joss Le Guern, reads out the daily news, snippets of gossip, and lately, ominous messages -- placed in his handmade wooden message box by an anonymous source -- that warn of an imminent onset of the bubonic plague.
Concerned, Le Guern brings the puzzling notes to the bumbling but brilliant Chief Inspector Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his straight-edged, right-hand man, Adrien Danglard. When strange signs that were historically believed to ward off the black death start to appear on the doors of several buildings, Adamsberg takes notice and suspects a connection with Le Guern's warnings. After a flea-bitten corpse with plague-like symptoms is found in one of the marked buildings, Fred Vargas's inimitable genius chief inspector is under pressure to solve the mystery and restore calm to a panicked Paris. But is it a real case of the bubonic scourge, or just a sinister trick designed to frighten as the body count grows and the culprit continues to elude the police?
Peopled with charming and eccentric Gallic characters, and packed with gripping historical detail, Have Mercy on Us All is a complex, surprising, and stylish tale from France's finest mystery writer.
"A bestseller in France, Vargas's U.S. debut presents a riveting blend of biothriller and historical cryptology: it takes a close look at the threat of bubonic plague to modern-day Paris. Joss Le Guern is a merchant seaman who, following the wreck of his ship and the end of his career, has strung an improvised mailbox onto a tree and taken to reading aloud local news left for him there thrice daily in the streets of Paris; he sees himself as a modern town crier. When odd, apocalyptic warnings begin coming in regularly, intrigued listener Herv Decambrais does some research and finds they match medieval texts that predicted the coming of the Black Death. Meanwhile, backward 4s begin appearing on apartment doors. At first, Chief Inspector Adamsberg (a comically forgetful, yet thoughtful and decisive character) and his deputy dismiss the markings as graffiti, but when they discover that the symbol was once used in parts of Europe to protect people against the plague and correlate with Joss's reports, the detective work intensifies though not fast enough. This exciting and careful whodunit is well-executed, page-turning crime fiction until its surprise but somewhat anticlimactic ending." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Fred Vargas is a bestselling author of twelve titles in French, and is published in twenty-two other countries. A historian and archaeologist specializing in the Middle Ages, she lives in Paris.