The Ghost Riders of Ordebec: A Commissaire Adamsberg Mystery is by Fred Vargas. As the amazon.com blurb says, "As the chief of police in Paris’s seventh arrondissement, Commissaire Adamsberg has no jurisdiction in Ordebec. Yet, he cannot ignore a widow’s plea."
With that apparently simple set-up, we are then carried along a puzzling and entertaining, and twisting path to the solution of several horrible murders whose perpetrators had hoped would be taken as supernatural results of the judgement of a thousand-year-old troop of ghosts who periodically have swept through the tiny village of Ordebec foretelling the deaths of local evil-doers.
Being a Francophile myself, I enjoyed the heck out of this book. It is entwined with a seemingly smaller one about a Paris pigeon, tortured by an unknown sadistic kid, that Adamsberg rescues and takes as much care of as he does his detecting procedures - which are sometimes hilariously NOT according to accepted practices.
The descriptions of the region surrounding Ordebec are magical. The people seem not to have changed much since the year 1000 A.D. I doubt if anyone who *did* follow prescribed procedure could ever have penetrated the thicket of fears, lies, hatreds, ancient rivalries, superstitions, and hurts, that Ordebec presents Commissaire Adamsberg.
This one kept me up until the wee hours to finish it. I gave it a 5 in my "Books Read" notebook - an excellent read that I will no doubt re-read sometime in the future. In the meantime I intend to find all the other Adamsberg mysteries available in English. And if some haven't yet been translated, I might just hunt them down in their original French.
Here's Publisher's Weekly comment: “Exquisite… only Christopher Fowler's Peculiar Crimes Unit can compare with the Paris policeman's eccentric colleagues in the Serious Crime Squad, who include a narcoleptic, a walking encyclopedia, and a naturalist…Vargas's combination of humor and fair-play plotting, reminiscent of John Dickson Carr, has never been better.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)