Book of the Month: The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

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Are you looking for some good reading to start the new year right? I would start just here with The Three Evangelists. It begins with a strange happening in a garden. Well, it’s not exactly a happening, but more like a presence.

Opening this book begins a new friendship with a French writer and a host of peculiar, believable people. Her style is unusual, captivating and unpredictable. If you read one of her books you will read more.

Fred Vargas is a French historian, archaeologist and writer of mystery novels. Her full name is Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau. Fred is shortened Frederique, and Vargas is her nom de plume, derived from Vargas, the character played by Ava Gardner in the film, “The Barefoot Contessa”.

Vargas’s books are smart, funny, rich and full of interesting and quirky people. Writing is not her day job. Vargas is a notable eukaryotic archaeologist who has specialized in the epidemiology of the Black Death and Bubonic plague. She uses her knowledge of history and illness in clever ways. Her books are not hard to read or ‘heady’, just smart and funny. Apparently she writes to relax.

Vargas has a number of books (many are award winning) to choose from, but start with The Three Evangelists. This book, which won the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger award (don’t you wish YOU had an award with such a cool name?), is evenly written with not one disappointing page.

The three evangelists are “Saint Mark” (Marc Vandoosler), an historian specializing in medieval history, “Saint Luke” (Lucien Devernois), an historian specializing in WWI, and “Saint Matthew” (Mattias Delamarre), an historian specializing in prehistory. All were so named by a retired policeman and oddball, Armand Vandoosler, who lives upstairs. Enjoying the inside view of the lives of these four idiosyncratic men is enough to make the story worth reading, even without the mystery. Together, it is a gem.

If you want something as good as chocolate, refreshing as a cool drink and fine as a merlot, get to know Fred Vargas. You might end up like me, something of a fan.

Marilyn Elliott is a member of the Soul Care Collective Steering Committee.

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Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been a church leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination since 1979. She has wide pastoral experience in partnership with her husband Steve. Together, they have lead three churches over 31 years, provided missionary member-care and pastoral retreats in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela since l985, and formation teaching during Field Conferences in Eastern Europe and Indonesia.

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