Reading Vargas in January is becoming a habit. For the third year running, I have plucked a freshly translated Vargas from the shelves and suspended all activity until it is read.

This year’s offering “Wash this Blood Clean from My Hands” (the 4th translated Vargas) is obviously a successor of “Have Mercy on Us All” (the 1st translated story). We find Adamsberg back in Paris revisiting some of the contacts made in the previous novel. Yet the story stands alone.

It is in many ways a story of Adamsberg’s personal development. Threatened by ghosts from the past and present emotional complications, he is very much a lost soul, vulnerable and on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

In typical Vargas fashion there is a quirkiness surrounding the central premise. Adamsberg has been hunting the serial killer, known as The Trident, for 30 years.

***** SPOILER *****

Adamsberg is still hunting him, despite the fact that he has been dead for 16.

***** END OF SPOILER *****

You just have to accept this during the first third of the novel, which is slow and irritating if you don’t.

The paces picks up slowing during the second third which sees Adamsberg and his team visit Canada and the Mounties for a course in DNA profiling …

***** SPOILER:

and Adamsberg accused of the horrific murder of his lover.

We don’t know if he did it and, due to drink-induced amnesia, neither does he.

***** END OF SPOILER

The final third whizzes by as Adamsberg seeks to discover the truth / save his skin. The denouement is excellent, very inventive, Vargas at her best making up for the deficiencies of the first section.

On the Vargas scale, I would say this is a middling ***1/2. “The Three Evangelists” remains my favourite containing all the Vargas signatures; an inventive plot, intriguing characters and a goodly dash of humour – something sadly lacking from this current effort.