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The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas (tr. by Sian Reynolds)

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec (2013) won the International Dagger Award

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec (2013) won the International Dagger Award

I picked up “The Ghost Riders of Ordebec” after completing the excellent “This Night’s Foul Work.”

It’s the 8th novel in the series and the shared 2013 International Dagger winner.  The series follows Paris cop  from the Pyrenees  Commissionaire Adamsberg.

I enjoyed reading both stories. However, the major difference between the two books is that the villain was easier to spot in “The Ghost Riders of Ordebec.”

The length of the story is about 368 pages and is told in third person omniscient pov.  This is a police procedural. Story moves fast and has a memorable opening with Adamsberg solving a local case involving the suspicious death of an elderly woman.

The main premise for this story is from the Middle Ages. Vargas continues to use her expertise in history to create intriguing stories that mixes legends, myths and medieval folklore with criminality. There are two threads in the story along with a pigeon who finds himself saved by Adamsberg and his crew.

The main arc starts with a  young woman from Normandy begging Adamsberg to help find a missing hunter. He wasn’t very popular and was a nasty piece of work.  While delving into the case, Adamsberg is confronted by tales of the Furious Army or the Ghost Riders who may have “seized him”. A legend about a devil’s horde who seize those who have sinned. A different kind of justice eh?

Vargas  list of quirky characters continues to grow. In this book,  a character randomly speaks backwards. Favorite scenes? The scene with Danglard telling the story of the Ghost Riders. He’s a pedantic who is close to Adamsberg and is his right hand man for facts. A walking encyclopedia of knowledge.

I loved the story of the Ghost Riders and the other historical references. The themes of the story would give too much away but it doesn’t follow the traditional themes you see often. The novel is atmospheric and characterizations were strong.  There’s some humor and wit all throughout. The motive behind the crimes was kind of shaky.  And there were moments of plot contrivances.

Overall, this was an entertaining story and mystery where there weren’t any real surprises.  The disheveled commissionaire and his cohorts make for an interesting character group that I will enjoy following as long as their cases remain interesting.

As for how well it stands alone in the series, the author has the habit of including characters from earlier books (possible villain in this one) but she doesn’t say what they did or how they were introduced in the series.


Corrections: added in (possible villains) in the last paragraph to clarify sentence/statement – 4/17/14

8 Comments »

  1. Keishon – I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. I like this series very much. I think one of the things I like best is the set of dynamics among Adamsberg and his team members; that’s done quite well in my opinion. And that ghost story is well told isn’t it? I also like the thread of wit that runs through the series.

  2. I loved this book, probably more than any other Commissaire Adamsberg books, and I’m a big fan of the series.

    Interesting that you found the culprit easier to spot here rather than in “Thie Night’s Foul Work.” I had the opposite reaction. In fact, when Vargas had a similar set-up with another book, which I won’t mention so as to avoid spoilers, I figured out the perpetrator early on.

    I think it’s good that the writer does not explain more about the earlier characters. For example, to do so in this book would reveal spoilers, and I do not want this done. It brings up anew the problem with writers revealing too much about other books in a series, which may ruin them for some readers.

    • Hi KathyD and yes that’s why I signaled that she may have previous characters in the book but she doesn’t allude to their past crimes which I loved because it did come up in a scene where the info could have been inserted but one of the characters plainly says he didn’t want to know.

      I guessed from early on in this book who the culprit was but the motive wasn’t clear and the explanation ended up being kind of wobbly there but the villain in This Night’s Foul Work took me completely by surprise when it shouldn’t have. So yes that is interesting how each of us had different reactions.

      I loved this book a tiny bit more because everything just flowed and it kept my interest and the characters continue to be richly developed.

  3. Glad you liked this, Keishon despite guessing the villain. I didn’t, I have to say. I’m reading Vargas’s latest one at the moment. Wonderful.

    • Yes, I have her latest as well. It’s not really “new” since it was published in 1996 so I am saving that one for later. I’m looking forward to reading your review.

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