This is the first book by the French author Fred Vargas which I have read, in fact I had never even heard of her (yes Fred is female) until Joan Kyler mentioned she was reading a Vargas book. This one was first published in 2006.
Sophia Simeonidis is an opera singer, living in a good neighbourhood in Paris with her husband Pierre. The only blot on their landscape is the house next door which is uninhabited and has been left to go to wrack and ruin by its owner. The house is known locally as ‘the disgrace’.
Sophia is unnerved by a mysterious tree which has appeared overnight in her garden. Who planted it and why? Pierre is completely unperturbed by it but Sophia is worried that something has been buried underneath it and it weighs on her mind.
Marc, Mathias and Lucien, are all around about 35 years old and originally met each other at university. None of their ambitions has been realised and so they are fairly down at heel. When Marc walks past the shabby house which is situated next door to Sophia’s house he decides to try to rent it, it should be financially manageable with the help of his two old friends, and he would be able to move his uncle/godfather in too. Vandoosler, his uncle is an ex-policeman and he is the one who names the three younger men ‘the evangelists’. The younger men are quite eccentric characters, but also very likeable.
After the evangelists move in next door, Sophia asks them to dig under the tree, to put her mind at rest. Not long after that Sophia goes missing, but Pierre claims there is nothing mysterious about it and he isn’t worried at all, but Sophia’s friends are worried.
Although this is a fairly recent publication, for me it had the feel of an old fashioned mystery, and I mean that as a compliment. Modern crime fiction is often too gory and violent for my liking, so I’ll definitely be reading more by Vargas in the future.
Obviously this book was originally written in French and was translated by Sian Reynolds, who deserves praise for producing a very smooth and readable translation.