Archeologist turned detective writer, Fred Vargas, is one of our all time favourite writers. Have Mercy on Us deals with familiar themes of media-drive crowd hysteria in an unusual context – fear of the plague in Paris – in a sort of precursor to recent health panics (avian flu etc). No matter than the plots rarely add up, the charm of Vargas’ ‘cloud shovelling’ detective Adamsberg more than compensates.

This edition of Have Mercy on Us All published by Harvill, translated by David Bellos.