have mercy on us all

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by  Fred Vargas (translated from original French by David Bellos)

Highly recommended for people who like innovative twists on crime thrillers, novels that cunningly intertwine history with fiction, and rich characterizations of people living in another country (Paris, France).

4 smiles: Ratings explained

Times Literary Supplement Ruth Morse summarises the content in a recognisable way when she comments that “Fred Vargas has everything: complex and surprising plots, good pace, various and eccentric characters, a sense of place and history, individualized dialogue, wit and style.”
I cannot comment on how the translation had changed the book from the original. David Bellos worked with the original author on the translation.

Ruth Morse makes a scathing comment on the translation writing that David Bellos had ”simplified, adapted and anglicized throughout, diluting the specificity of Vargas’s well-modulated French. This is not a matter of competence, but of style choices. David Bellos’s translation is so free as to amount to wholesale rewriting, at the expense of the atmosphere. Reading his prose is like watching a hastily dubbed film.” David Bellos  replies to Morse’s criticisms.

I wish I could read the original French version because despite not being particularly interested in murder mysteries I was so gripped that I read this book in one, long, day. A rare un-put-down-able experience for me as a single girl and curmudgeonly reader, intolerant of murder mysteries with plots that are either

  • easily guessable
  • so obtuse its virtually impossible to guess potential plot evolutations

This book managed to effectively walk the line between these two literary traps.

have mercy on us all
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