Book review: The Three Evangelists

Thank you everyone for your kind words in the last blogpost and I am just so glad to be up and running again. This week, I am back with another crime fiction and just in case you did not know how much I love this genre, you can read it HERE, HERE and HERE.

I was won over by French crime fiction during my last encounter with “Alex” by Pierre Lamaitre, which is packed with a generous dose of thrill, suspense and gruesomeness very much on par with their Scandinavian counterpart. And allow me to boldly say this as a Scandi-novel fan, I did find Lamaitre’s style slightly more entertaining. [My review of Alex HERE]

Curiosity got the better of me and my venture to sample other French authors landed with me with Fred Vargas “The Three Evangelists.” Fred Vargas is the pseudonym used by talented French historian, archeologist and award-winning crime fiction writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau.

The Three Evangelists is the first part of the Evangelist trilogy, where Vargas devotes quite a bit of ink to introducing and setting up her main characters. There was not one, not two but a total of three amateur sleuths joined by former disgraced policeman Armand Vandoosler, who found themselves embroiled in the case of a mysterious tree planted in front of the house of retired opera singer Sophia Simeonidis. More worryingly though was the sudden disappearance of Simeonidis herself shortly after.

Fred Vargas

Compared to Alex, this book is vastly different with minimal blood and gore, a much slower pace and build-up, centering on a quiet suburb in Paris rather than a police station. What I particularly enjoyed about this book was the character profiles themselves. The three sleuths, namely Mathias, Marc and Lucien, are your mid-30s, single and disillusioned academic historians so badly strapped for cash that they decided to rent a rundown house together with Marc’s godfather Vandoosler.

These men are far from the typical image of the smart, fearless, sometimes alcoholic plagued with relationship issues detectives. Instead, they are quite simply geeks, affectionately nicknamed St Matthew, St Mark and St Lucas by Vandoosler, hence title The Three Evangelists, facing mid-life crises. But they slowly grew on me with their down-to-earth personalities, geek talk and affable mannerisms (I have admittedly a soft spot for geeks. READ HERE) that you do forgive the book for a lack in much police action.

Had to insert Poirot here because I can’t help but think of him when it comes to French-speaking detectives. (PS: I know he’s Belgian)

The real beauty for me though is how the author pushed these nobodies (three in fact!) to take part in a criminal case, assisted from the side by a former recalcitrant policeman.

“A policeman’s strength lies either in a long monologue that crushes the opposition, or in a rapid response that kills it dead. You should never deprive a policeman of these well-rehearsed pleasures. Or he might turn nasty.”

Overall, The Three Evangelists is a much-welcomed genteel and poetic read in contrast to its Scandi-counterparts. Worth a shot if you have never read any French crime fiction before.

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