Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Dog Will Have His Day: Review

Dog Will Have His Day (1996) by Fred Vargas is the second in her Three Evangelist books. Readers were introduced to Marc, Mathias, and Lucien, dubbed The Three Evangelists after St. Mark, St. Matthew, and St. Luke by Marc's godfather/uncle, in the book of the same name. In that story, the three historians help Armand Vandoosler (the godfather/uncle and an ex-cop) solve the mystery of a missing neighbor. This story features Marc and Mathias in supporting roles to one Louis Kehlweiler.

Louis Kehlweiler is quite a detective. The former French Ministry Agent is currently out of a job--but he can't help keeping his hand in and has set himself up at various locations around Paris, keeping an eye on suspicious characters he knows are up to no good. Lately, he's been keeping an eye on a certain politician's nephew. One morning as he's loitering on a bench, doing his best vagrant impression while watching the nephew's windows, he notices something odd in a bit of dog poo--somewhere, somehow a dog has come across a joint from a human toe, wolfed it down, and deposited under the tree beside his bench. Closer examination (ewwwww) reveals to Kehlweiler's expert eye that this toe belongs to a human who has been murdered. He takes his find to be thoroughly examined and discovers that it belonged to an elderly woman.

Somewhere in Paris--or possibly elsewhere in France--an elderly woman has been murdered and Kehlweiler determines to find out who she was and who murdered her. A daunting task. But he recruits Marc, one of The Three Evangelists to help him trace the dog. The dog leads them to Port-Nichols, a tiny fishing village, and, eventually, to Marie, an elderly busybody who knew too much about one too many people and was killed. The finger (or is it toe) of suspicion points to various villagers, but Kehlweiler is able to identify the culprit with the help of Marc and Mathias (a second Evangelist). He will also find the answer to another mystery that has haunted his family since the Second World War.

As my synopsis above would indicate, this is really Louis Kehlweiler's book. He does the detecting with the able assistance of the two historians. And Kehlweiler is a very odd fellow--he is waltzing around with a toad named Bufo in his pocket, for crying out loud. And talks to it. And introduces Marc to it like they're going to be best buds. I spent most of the book feeling just slightly off-balance. Kehlweiler and his toad can do that to you. But the final third of the book makes the read worthwhile. I didn't mind our detective's bizarre way of talking (as if you'd come into a conversation half-way and he expected you to know what was going on) so much once he got down to cases and started following up clues in earnest.

I do wish that there had been more hints about his personal mystery. It was quite satisfying to watch him get the upper hand on a man who had been on the wrong side of the French Resistance in the war, but it would have been even more so if the confrontation hadn't come out of the blue. We were aware of the WWII connection to Kehlweiler--but there were no hints of his private quest.

Overall, an absorbing book. But one that demands a bit of patience from the reader. Fortunately, the conclusion of the story more than compensates for the demand. ★★and 1/4.
[Finished 3/4/18]

Marc smiled back. He wasn't going to be thrown by the sight of a toad. What would you look like if you were scared of a toad? A total idiot, that's what. Marc was scared stiff of touching a toad, yes, but he was also scared stiff of looking like a total idiot. (p. 68)

Perhaps that's the secret if you want to get elected. The best thing to do, if you want to be able to turn in any direction without seeming to, is to be smooth-edged, don't you agree? Well, Chevalier is like something round, slippery and glossy, like a conger eel, a masterpiece in some ways. He'll very rarely give you a straight answer, even if they seem straight to you. ~Darnas (p. 104)

Very noble to make promises, easily done, then you have to keep them, which is a pain in the backside. (p. 195)


Anonymous said...

Haha, "demands a lot of patience from the reader" is my experience with Vargas to date...I want to embrace her weirdness in plotting these unconventional mysteries, but she doesn't half go on about stuff that it's difficult to take any interest in.

Bev Hankins said...

JJ: I enjoyed the other two I read by her a bit more (The Three Evangelists and The Chalk Circl Man). She does go on a bit and she has (as someone noted on Goodreads) a somewhat "sideways" way of thinking.

Tarissa said...

Hmmm.... pass.