Joss, a middle-aged former Breton sailor, begins to succeed in reviving the old family trade of town crier in modern-day Paris. Business is good, since people gladly pay five francs to hear their rants and nonsensical messages in parks and squares; every so often, ominous cryptic messages announcing the return of the plague will also be part of the day’s requested cries.
At the same time, chief inspector Adamsberg is surprised as a distressed woman describes that all her apartment building’s doors, except one, have been marked with a large inverted “4” in black ink with the inscription “CLT.” This graffiti continues to turn up throughout the city, and residents of apartments with unmarked doors are turning up dead, showing signs of rat-flea bites and blackened flesh.
Inspector Adamsberg must lead an investigation that takes him through a juxtaposition of 15th-century Europe and modern-day France... or does he?
Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of French historian, archaeologist and writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau, born in 1957 in Paris. Fred is the diminutive of her given name, Frédérique, while Vargas derives from the Ava Gardner character in The Barefoot Contessa and is the pseudonym adopted by her twin sister, Joëlle Jo Vargas, a painter.
She mostly writes police thrillers (policiers). They take place in Paris and feature the adventures of Chief Inspector Adamsberg and his team. Her interest in the Middle Ages is manifest in many of her novels, especially through the person of Marc Vandoosler, a young specialist in the period. Seeking Whom He May Devour was shortlisted by the British Crime Writers' Association for the last Gold Dagger award for best crime novel of the year, and the following year The Three Evangelists won the inaugural Duncan Lawrie International Dagger. She also won the award for the second year-running with Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand.
Fred Vargas took an important part in the defence of Cesare Battisti, a left-wing activist sought by Italian and French justice since 2004 for alleged assassinations committed in the 1970s, during the "years of lead".