Fred Vargas & me

I have tried to read Fred Vargas´ “Have Mercy on Us All” several times. It has sat on my TBR for more than a year, glaring at me, wanting to be read.

After three days I had got through twenty pages. I won´t say they were boring, the modern-day town crier (and the gost of his ancestor) may even be said to be interesting, but I just found it completely impossible to get into it. (And to be honest, I didn´t come across too many bare bones or nice little murders).

So is the opposite of unputdownable unpickupable or what? At least I concluded that if I wanted to post any reviews in July, I´d better switch back to my British diet immediately.

Vargas may get a fifth chance later, but at least it will hardly damage her career if I never get through one of her books.

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
This entry was posted in Fred Vargas, non-review. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Fred Vargas & me

  1. Dorte – You are not alone. Vargas is definitely not for everyone. Some people absolutely love her work; others…. don’t.

  2. I have managed to get through a couple of them Dorte but I can certainly understand you not being able to – I’m not a fan myself and can’t really see what has prompted so many awards like all the International Daggers she has won. But that’s the thing about art I guess – we all like different things. If you do try her again I’d go for the standalone (non Adamsberg book) called THE THREE EVANGELISTS which I thought much better than either of the two series books I’ve plodded through.

  3. Philip says:

    Now, in my case, Dorte, I worship the ground Vargas walks on. I have a little box of Parisian soil before which I prostrate myself every morning. I jest, I jest. But Vargas is one of the rather few crime novelists on my A+ List. That said, if I were asked for a few authors’ names by someone first approaching crime fiction, I certainly wouldn’t include her. She is, quite simply, extremely idiosyncratic, and I have no difficulty understanding why her writing has no appeal for some readers, and perhaps many readers.

  4. Margot: if she had been an unknown writer on the make, I wouldn´t have posted this, but I thought people might begin to wonder if I never read anything.

    Bernadette: perhaps the dagger judges want to show off their literary taste?😉

    Philip: she writes well, and if I had been looking for something crimerelated I could use in a class, she might be the perfect choice (like Paul Auster´s City of Glass which I have used as an exam text several times with great success), but I am in holiday mood right now.

  5. Tim says:

    I agree with Bernadette,The Three Evangelists is more approachable. I also liked The Chalk Circle Man very much. Don’t give up on here just yet.

  6. Rob says:

    Dorte, I found it difficult to get into as well. I found the dialogue clunky and the plot lacking credibility, although the overall premise of the plot was fine. As a police procedural it wouldn’t be at the top of my list. My review is here if you’re interested.
    http://theviewfromthebluehouse.blogspot.com/2010/04/review-of-have-mercy-on-us-all-by-fred.html

  7. Petty Witter says:

    You are so generous – to give this a 4th go was kind enough, to give it a 5th chance? Well, lets just say I don’t think i’d be so good or tolerant.

  8. Norman says:

    Dorte, youcould say that Vargas is a marmite of an author you either hate her or like her. But I think you Danes have banned marmite. ;o)
    Vargas is definitely on my must read list simply because I can identify with the very quirky Adamsberg.

  9. I wouldn’t give it a 5th chance either. And maybe it’s a ‘not for me’ book?

    I’ve read one Vargas book – Seeking Whom He May Devour. It took me some time to get into it. I thought it was stilted, but that may have been the translation. I had to start it twice, but by the time I got to the end I was really enjoying it.

    I’ve borrowed Have Mercy on Me from the library and taken it back twice without getting beyond the first few pages. Sometimes I think there are enough books to read without persevering with a book that’s ‘not for me’.🙂

  10. Norman says:

    I love your new theme.

  11. Kelly says:

    I would have given up long before now. Life is too short….

    I really like your colorful new header photo and background!

  12. Tim: import another one? When I have THIS ONE on my shelf? Well, knowing myself fairly well I don´t think that is likely – unless I get through this one at some point.😉
    Rob: thank you. Well, it wasn´t the language that made me put it down so soon, I just wanted some action.
    Tracy: I didn´t count how many times I tried, but I am willing to give her another chance because so many of my trusted blog friends love her.

  13. MY NEW HEADER & BACKGROUND: pictures from Tobermory, Ardnamurchan in Scotland. (I thought it was time to shed the wintery look and try a cosier theme).

    Norman: I didn´t even get to meet Adamsberg; but if I had to choose between Vargas & Marmite, I think I´d settle for Vargas. I think…

    Margaret: the title is “Have Mercy on Us All”, but I could have called the post Vargas, Have Mercy on Me😉

    Kelly: sometimes I am quite stubborn so if I think there is something to look for in a book….

  14. seana says:

    I’ve read a couple of Vargas’s books and have to say I loved them. I haven’t read the one you tried, but if you haven’t even met Adamsberg yet, then safe to say, you haven’t really met Vargas.
    I love the word unpickupable, though. I have that situation going on with a book by an author I’ve loved in the past, but this one is very blah.

  15. Maxine says:

    I am not all that keen on Vargas but I agree that The Three Evangelists and Seeking whom he may Devour are quite short and focused compared with some of the other ones, and I found these quite likeable. Vargas is very “different” so is probably worth trying another of her titles if you don’t like this one (which is one I have not read – I’ve read a few others though).

  16. Ellen says:

    FOUR times? I’d had given up after three attempts – exactly as I did with ‘Lord of the RIngs’ – I simply cannot read Tolkien; no matter how great an author the rest of the world may think he is (and I know he isn’t a crime writer, but that’s not the point😉 )

  17. Seana: I know that which is exactly why I haven´t just given up on her yet. But this time I just had to put it down – twenty pages in three days is just not READING.

    Maxine: I will just leave her for now and see what happens. I don´t have to try every writer once, but I had decided to use Vargas for the global reading challenge. I prefer to use books which are outside my comfort zone for that one, but there are limits ;D

  18. Bente says:

    20 pages in 3 days – sounds like a book not worth reading😉. I don’t know Vargas, but I know books that makes my feel the same way … and those I never finish.

    Nice new theme you have got for the blog!

  19. I haven’t read it before but now I know to avoid it unless I’m having problems sleeping.

  20. kathy d. says:

    I agree with Phillip, Seana and Norm.
    I am definitely in the pro -Vargas camp. I put aside An Uncertain Place until I could give it my full and undivided attention and then devoured it, doing nothing else until I finished it. It’s like a wonderful dessert to it.
    I don’t expect her books to be anything but brilliantly crazed, well-written and fascinating, opening up a new world of reading to me, and very different from prior reading experiences. Not a police procedural but yet the inspector does use logic, interviews, evidence and deductive reasoning to solve the case.
    I think in the latest book that Vargas is challenging the reader on several levels and also deliberately making outrageous statements we have to ponder.
    And I laughed and grinned so many times reading this one. I knew the writer was challenging the reader’s sense of humor frequently.
    That said, Vargas’ books are not for everyone. I know exactly which of my mystery-reading friends I’ll loan the book to, and who I will not loan it to. At the bottom of it all, it all comes down to individual taste, as in art, music, movies, etc.
    When I get a book by Vargas, I strap on my seat belt and get ready for the roller-coaster ride.
    (P.S. It took me 80 pages to get into Have Mercy on Us All, and after I finished it, I appreciated it, although it isn’t a favorite of mine. However, I did learn a lot about the bubonic plague, as Vargas is an expert in it and uses that knowledge in an interesting fashion in that book.)
    And I agree about trying The Three Evangelists. I’ve loaned that around and many like it.

  21. seana says:

    The closest I’d come to Vargas was the wonderful Gripstra and de Gier series of Janwillem van de Wetering until recently, when I would add James Church’s Inspector O mysteries, set in North Korea. They are not the same, but they all take part of a certain similar sensibility. I do think they either work for you or they don’t.

  22. Bente: she writes really well, no doubt about that, but I wanted excitement!
    Clarissa: haha.
    Kathy: well, I may try again, but no promises😉
    Seana: and I have never felt like trying van de Wetering either ;D

  23. kathy d. says:

    Everyone has personal taste and preferences in reading. Among my mystery-reading friends, there is a wide spectrum of opinions on thrillers, cozies, introspective detectives, violence on the pages, historical fiction, humor, formulaic, quirky, etc. I can barely keep track. I loan many people mysteries and I feel like a “librarian,” trying to keep likes and dislikes sorted out. I know (I think) with Fred Vargas books who will like them and who won’t. It’s always interesting to hear the responses.

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