Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand (Commissaire Adamsberg Series #4)

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Internationally acclaimed and bestselling crime writer Fred Vargas will be published for the first time in Canada in hardcover by Knopf Canada.

In this remarkable addition to the Commissaire Adamsberg series, has a serial killer followed Adamsberg to Canada on his training mission?

Between 1943 and 2003, nine people have been stabbed to death with a most unusual weapon: a trident. In each case, arrests were made, suspects confessed their crime ...

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Internationally acclaimed and bestselling crime writer Fred Vargas will be published for the first time in Canada in hardcover by Knopf Canada.

In this remarkable addition to the Commissaire Adamsberg series, has a serial killer followed Adamsberg to Canada on his training mission?

Between 1943 and 2003, nine people have been stabbed to death with a most unusual weapon: a trident. In each case, arrests were made, suspects confessed their crime and were sentenced to life. One slightly worrying detail: all the presumed murderers lost consciousness during the night of the crime and cannot remember whether they actually did it or not. Commissaire Adamsberg is convinced all the murders are the work of one person: the terrifying Judge Fulgence. Years before, Adamsberg’s own brother had been the principal suspect in a similar case and avoided prison only thanks to Adamsberg’s help. History now repeats itself when Adamsberg, who is temporarily based in Quebec for a training mission, is accused of having savagely murdered his young lover. In order to prove his innocence, Adamsberg must go on the run from the Canadian police and find Judge Fulgence. The heir to Maigret, Commissaire Adamsberg is back in a new investigation that will keep the reader spellbound until the very last word.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement
Fred Vargas has everything: complex and surprising plots, good pace, various and eccentric characters, a sense of place and history, individual settings, wit, and style.
Scotland on Sunday
Commissaire Adamsberg must be the most engaging French detective since Maigret.
Time Out London
An intriguing, idiosyncratic voice.
Daily Express (London)
A Vargas novel is as good as a trip to Paris. The style has the same hyper-real quality as all her writing—the real world, but filtered through a strange prism—but it's the plotting that really hits the spot: ingenious and eccentric.
Guardian (London)
Fred Vargas is the hottest property in crime fiction.... Poetic, offbeat and genuinely addictive. [Her] prose has an unusual deftness, a wry humour. A unique voice.
Marilyn Stasio
…one doesn't read for logic in this novel (which maintains its loopy quality in Sian Reynolds's translation from the French); one reads to be amazed by the fantastic twists in the bizarre plot about a long-dead serial killer who seems to be pursuing his quarry from the grave. One reads as well to be delighted by the literary grace notes.
—The New York Times
Maureen Corrigan
Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand is the third Adamsberg novel to be published here, and it's so very perfect in its oddness that it deserves to be placed in a mystery category of its own. Don't ask me the name of that category: Only Edgar Allan Poe could conjure it up. His famous term the "imp of the perverse" comes close to capturing the swirl of evil and slapstick comedy that informs Vargas's writing. Add to that distinctive voice a tightly constructed suspense story, a noble detective who is nevertheless bedeviled by licentiousness, and a host of secondary characters with quirks that amuse rather than annoy, and you have a mystery reading experience that's close to flawless.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
A 30-year sequence of murders continues to haunt Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, who's very personally involved. All over France people have been dying of three abdominal wounds in a curiously straight line evidently inflicted by some kind of trident. In almost every case, someone's been convicted of the murder. Only Adamsberg knows, but cannot prove, that the real killer is the politically powerful Judge Fulgence. Adamsberg's beloved brother Raphael was accused of murdering his girlfriend in this fashion when Fulgence was living in their village. Although Adamsberg hid evidence to get Raphael acquitted, his brother departed, leaving Adamsberg bereft. The ordeal influences all his future relationships. When he learns of another similar murder, Adamsberg goes to the scene and accuses the judge, who was buried in 1987, only to be dismissed as obsessive. Digging deeper, he learns that each suspect who's been arrested was drunk and remembers nothing. When Adamsberg and his department are sent to Canada for DNA training, he's framed for a copycat murder. The RCMP orders him detained, but before his arrest, he escapes back to France, where he hides out while a computer expert looks for evidence to clear him before he's arrested for a murder even he's not sure he didn't commit. Another of Vargas's powerful explorations of unusual crimes (Seeking Whom He May Devour, 2006, etc.): first-class from start to finish.
From the Publisher
Praise for Fred Vargas:

“A Vargas novel is as good as a trip to Paris. The style has the same hyper-real quality as all her writing–the real world, but filtered through a strange prism–but it’s the plotting that really hits the spot: ingenious and eccentric.”
Daily Express (UK)

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143112167
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/31/2007
  • Series: Commissaire Adamsberg Series , #4
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 362,795
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Fred Vargas was born in Paris in 1957. As well as being a bestselling author in France, she is by training an historian and archaeologist. She was the winner of the inaugural British Crime Writers’ Association Duncan Lawrie International Dagger for her novel The Three Evangelists.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt


Leaning his shoulder against the dark basement wall, jean-Baptiste Adamsberg stood contemplating the enormous central heating boiler which had suddenly stopped working, two days before. On a Saturday, October 4, when the outside temperature had dropped to one degree Celsius, as cold air had arrived from the Arctic. The commissaire knew nothing about heating systems, and was examining the silent tank and pipework, in the hope that his benign gaze would either restore the boiler’s energy or perhaps conjure up the engineer, who was supposed to be there but hadn’t turned up.

Not that he felt the cold, nor was he distressed by the situation. On the contrary, the idea that the north wind should sometimes come funnelling down from the polar ice cap to the streets of the 13th arrondissement of Paris gave him the sensation that he was only one step away from the frozen wastes, that he could walk across them and dig a hole to hunt seals, if he felt like it. He had put on a pullover under his black jacket, and if it was up to him, he would have waited patiently for the repairman to come, while watching for the whiskers of a seal to pop up out of the ice.

But in its own way, the powerful heating system down in the basement was a full-time participant in the handling of the cases that poured in all day long to the Paris Serious Crime Squad, as it conveyed its warmth to the thirty-four radiators and twenty-eight police officers in the building. The said officers were at present shivering with cold, huddled into anoraks and crowding round the coffee machine, warming their gloved hands on the white beakers. Or else they had simply left the building for one of the nearby bars. Their files were consequently frozen solid too. Important files, dealing with violent crimes. But the boiler wasn’t concerned with all that. It was simply waiting, in lordly and tyrannical fashion, for the man with the magic touch to arrive and kneel in front of it. So as a gesture of goodwill, Adamsberg had gone downstairs to pay it brief and unsuccessful homage, and in particular to find a quiet dark place where he could escape from the complaints of his colleagues.

Their curses at the cold, since the inside temperature was, after all, about 10 degrees, did not augur well for the vote on the proposed DNA profiling course in Quebec, where the autumn was turning out severe — minus 4 yesterday in Ottawa, and it was already snowing in places. They were being offered two weeks’ full-time study of genetic imprints, using saliva, blood, sweat, tears, urine and other excretions, now captured on electronic circuits, classified and broken down. All body fluids had become battleground weapons in criminology. A week before the planned departure date, Adamsberg’s thoughts had already taken off towards the Canadian forests, which he had been told were immense and dotted with millions of lakes. His second-in-command, Capitaine Danglard, had reminded him crossly that they would be staring at computer screens, not gazing out over lakes. Danglard had been angry with him for a year now. Adamsberg knew why, and was waiting patiently for the grumbling to subside.

Danglard was not dreaming about lakes, but praying every day that some urgent case would keep the entire squad back home. For weeks he had been imagining his imminent death, as the plane blew up over the Atlantic. But since the heating engineer had failed to arrive, he had cheered up somewhat. He was hoping that the unforeseen breakdown of the boiler and the sudden cold snap would put paid to the absurd idea of travelling to Canada’s icy wastes.

Adamsberg put his hand on the tank and smiled. Would Danglard have been capable of scuppering the boiler, since he was well aware that it would spread alarm and despondency? And then making sure that the technician didn’t turn up? Yes, Danglard would have been quite capable of that. His fluid intelligence could slip into the narrowest mechanisms of the human mind. As long as the mechanisms were those of reason and logic. And it was precisely along that watershed, between reason and instinct, that Adamsberg and his deputy so diametrically differed, and had done for years.

The commissaire went back up the spiral staircase and crossed the large room on the ground floor where people were walking about slowly, heavy shapes bundled up in extra sweaters and scarves. Nobody knew quite why, but they called this the Council Chamber, presumably, Adamsberg thought, because of the full-scale meetings and consultations that took place there. Alongside it was the similarly named Chapter Room, where smaller gatherings were held. Where the names came from, Adamsberg did not know, but probably from Danglard, whose encyclopedic knowledge seemed to him sometimes to be unlimited, and almost toxic. The capitaine was capable of sudden outbursts of information, as frequent as they were uncontrollable, rather like the snorting of a horse. It could take a trifle — an unusual word, an imperfectly formulated idea — for him to launch into an erudite and not always well-timed lecture, which could be stopped by a warning gesture.

Shaking his head, Adamsberg communicated to the faces that looked up as he passed that the boiler was still showing no signs of life. He walked into Danglard’s office. His deputy was finishing off various urgent reports with a gloomy air, just in case the disastrous expedition to Labrador went ahead as planned, although of course he would never reach Canada, on account of the mid-Atlantic explosion, caused by the fire in the left-hand engine, which would have been knocked out by a flock of starlings. The prospect gave him a cast-iron excuse for opening a bottle of white wine before six o’clock. Adamsberg perched on a corner of his desk.

‘Where are we in the D’Hernoncourt case, Danglard?’

‘All sewn up. The old baron has confessed. Full confession, crystal clear.’

‘Too crystal clear by half,’ said Adamsberg, pushing the report aside and picking up the newspaper which was lying neatly folded on the desk. ‘A family dinner turns into a bloodbath, and we have an old man who stumbles and stutters and can’t express himself. Then all at once, he starts expressing himself with absolute clarity. No light and shade. No, Danglard, I’m not signing that.’

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Have already begun to read the next book....

    If you are looking totally for forensics and plot, this book has a lot of twists and turns. However, this reader believes that Fred Vargas's real talent is creating characters that one never forgets. While the main character can be a real skunk at times, the reader is still interested in the psychology of this guy. And, perhaps, like Sherlock Holmes, who would go off to the opium den, as readers, we don't agree with the behavior, but we are definitely interested in what is going to happen next. While I have not read this in the original French, I suspect this translation is very good. Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2007

    Interesting story, poor translation

    While I found the characters and plot compelling, this is one of the poorer translations I have encountered. The syntax is ofter butchered.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2007

    No need for a bandaid

    I am an English grad student that loves to read, but have become a book snob. If a book doesn't make me think and is too easy, I will not even open the front page. I wanted to read a crime/mystery book before I started back to school. A differenct genre that what I am use to. Vargas was able to deliver an intelligent novel that makes me want to read more of her work. And I will.

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