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The Three Evangelists
Fred Vargas

Vintage Books USA
January 2007 / ISBN 9780099469551
Amateur Sleuth / 3 historians and godfather / Paris / Contemporary

Reviewed by LJ Roberts

First Sentence: ‘Pierre, something’s wrong with the garden,’ said Sophia.

Three young historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucian, and Marc’s ex-policeman uncle, Armand, buy a ramshackle house, known as the ‘disgrace’. When Armand sees the three young men standing each framed by a section of a gothic window, he coins them “the three evangelists.”

Their neighbor, Sophia, is an former opera singer. When she finds a tree has been planted in her garden, it causes her worry. She hires the young men to dig it up, just to reassure her that nothing is planted under it. When Sophia disappears, the young men, with the help of Armand, are determined to find out what happened.

I like books which are character driven, and this certainly was. I loved the characters. Sophia, the retired opera singer worried about a tree which appears in her garden, and the three evangelists, so named by Armand, an ex-flic and uncle to St. Mark (Marc the Middle Ages historian who always wears black), St. Martin (Mathias the Prehistoric historian who dislikes wearing clothes), and St. Luck (Lucian the Great Wars historian who always wears a tie). I felt Vargas really liked her characters and made me like them in turn.

Even the house, in which the four men live, almost becomes a character in the story. The story is wonderfully plotted, escalating bit-by-bit to the final climatic reveal. The reveal itself was particularly well done as it wasn’t dry and unemotional, as most are, but filled with pain and disappointment.

Perhaps because she is Parisian and writing about her own city, there wasn’t as strong a sense of place as I, a foreigner, might have liked. However, it is her familiarity with place that made me feel comfortable there as well.

This was one of the better translations. The dialogue worked very well, particularly the occasional banter between the principal characters.

Vargas’ writing captivates me. It is filled with warmth, humor and emotion. I highly recommend it.

Review: Seeking Who He May Devour
Reviewed 2011
© 2011