Reread in April 2015 and it was just as good as I remembered. Original review from 22nd April 2006.
Trans from the French: David Bellos
Yes again a cover influenced purchase, so I am glad to report that a good cover can lead to a good read too. I really enjoyed this book. The language, characters and descriptions are fantastic, so I suppose a lot of praise must also go to the translater as well.
The book opens with the character of Lawrence Donald Johnstone, a Canadian in France to film wolves. He’s been away from his true love, grizzly bears, for far too long, and is rooting in in Mercantour. Not only for the skinny European wolves, although he has come to love them, but also because there’s a woman, Camille, in his life.
But when dead sheep, always ewes are found the locals begin to look at the “foreign Italian wolves” with suspicion and hate. They organise local hunts. Coming to believe that it is all the work of one, huge, extraordinary animal.
Camille has her own ideas, especially after a friend Suzanne is found killed just like a sheep. She begins to suspect that a local is responsible. She doesn’t buy into Suzanne’s theory of a werewolf, but she sets out along with Watchee the shepard and Soliman, Suzanne’s adopted son to track down the killer. Things, however, do not turn out to be quite as straight forward as she’d hoped, and she is forced to ask an old friend for help. This old flame is Commissaire Adamsberg. And he is quite a character.
That is how Adamsberg used his brain, like an ocean that you trust entirely to feed you well, but wich you’ve long ago given up trying to tame.
I loved Adamsberg. He is so very different from the logical reasoning detective in the Sherlock Holmes mode. Instead he is an interesting, fascinating character, with his own, highly personal way of getting things done.
‘Dunno’ was among the frequent of Adamsberg’s utterances. He fell back on it neither from laziness nor from lack of wits, but bcause he really did not know the answer and was ready to admit it. The commissaire’s passive ignorance bemused and maddened his deputy, who could not conceive of the possibility of taking any apropriate steps in full ignorance of the facts. Wavering was Adamsberg’s most natural element, however, and his most productive by far.
Or maybe it just that I see parts of myself with my wavering in him.
The whole book is full of wonderful turns of phrases, and great characters. The actual plot itself is not so important, and you’ll probably have worked out the ending before the characters. But that isn’t really a negative point, in my opinion, I was content to just read and enjoy this book.
Splitting a guy in two goes beyond the legal limits of violence between neighbours
I enjoyed it so much, that had I not been the final stop on the train I may actually have missed it, I was so engrossed in the book.
Camille shrugged. “Sometimes things just click for all sorts of lousy reasons, but loads of good reasons just cant unclick them ever again.”