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About the Author: Fred Vargas

Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of the French historian, archaeologist and writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau (often mistakenly spelled "Audouin-Rouzeau"). She is the daughter of Philippe Audoin(-Rouzeau), a surrealist writer who was close to André Breton, and the sister of the historian Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, a noted specialist of the First World War who inspired her the character of Lucien Devernois.

Archeo-zoologist and historian by trade, she undertook a project on the epidemiology of the Black Death and bubonic plague, the result of which was a scientific work published in 2003 and still considered definitive in this research area: Les chemins de la peste : Le rat la puce et l'homme (Pest Roads).

As a novelist, Fred Vargas writes mostly crime stories. She found writing was a way to combine her interests and relax from her job as a scientist. Her novels are set 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.

She separated her public persona as a writer from her scientific persona by adopting the pseudonym Fred Vargas. "Fred" is the diminutive of her given name, Frédérique, while with "Vargas", she has chosen the same pseudonym than her twin sister, Jo Vargas (pseudonym of Joëlle Audoin-Rouzeau), a painter. For both sisters, the pseudonym "Vargas" derives from the Ava Gardner character in "The Barefoot Contessa".

Her crime fiction policiers have won three International Dagger Awards from the Crime Writers Association, for three successive novels: in 2006, 2008 and 2009. She is the first author to achieve such an honor. In each case her translator into English has been Sîan Leonard, who was also recognized by the international award.


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Goodreads rating: 4.01

Paperback, Published in Oct 2004 by Vintage

ISBN10: 0099453649 | ISBN13: 9780099453642

Page count: 321

Three times a day in a Parisian square, a curious modern-day crier announces the news items that are left in his box. Over the course of a few days he receives a number of disturbing and portentous messages of malicious intent, all of them referring to the Black Death. Strange marks have also appeared on the doors of several buildings: symbols once used to ward off the plague. Detective Commissaire Adamsberg begins to sense a connection, even a grotesque menace. Then charged and flea-bitten corpses are found. The press seizes on their plague-like symptoms, and the panic sets in.

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