Mystery review: The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

Original French title: Debout les morts
Translator: Siân Reynolds
Genre: Mystery
Year of publication: original: 1996; in English: 2006
No. in series: 1
Series detectives: Historians Marc, Lucien and Matthias, and former police commissaire (Armand) Vandoosler (Marc’s uncle)
Type of investigator: Amateurs and semi-pro
Setting & time: Paris (mostly), France; contemporary

Three down-on-their-luck historians move into an old run-down house along with the uncle of one of them, a former police commissaire. Because of their names the old man calls them “The Evangelists”: St. Lucas, St. Mark and St. Matthew. The four men quickly make the acquaintance of their neighbour Sophia, a retired Greek opera singer, and also that of Juliette who runs a restaurant nearby. Some weeks later Sophia disappears. Her husband seems unconcerned, but Juliette and Sophia’s niece Alexandra, who turns up shortly afterwards, are both convinced something has happened to her, as are the four men, who have already alerted the police. Not quite happy with where the police’s inquiries are taking the case, they set out to investigate it themselves, doing their research in traditional academic manner as well as using more unorthodox methods.

A full review would simply be a re-iteration of my previous reviews of Vargas’ books as regards style and so on, so I will let it suffice to say that I found the characters, especially of the three historians, very interesting and well-written, and the plot full of the twists and turns that typify the classic puzzle plot.

Rating: An excellent puzzle plot mystery that will keep the majority of readers guessing until the climax. 4+ stars.

Prix Mystère de la critique, 1996.
The Duncan Lawrie International Dagger, 2006.


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