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Bringing vigilantes to justice, and other new crime fiction worth a look

Detail from illustration prepared for the print edition of this story.

Sam Kalda/The Globe and Mail

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec
By Fred Vargas, translated by Sian Reynolds, Harvill Secker, 368 pages, $22.95

Commissaire Adamsberg is confronted with his most baffling case yet in this marvellously quirky novel set in a small Norman village. The story begins with a frail and terrified woman travelling to Paris to beg Adamsberg for help. The murder hasn't happened yet but she knows it's coming. For a thousand years, ghost riders have come to kill Normandy's worst cases. Rapists, murderers: Those who've escaped man's justice now face vengeance.

Why should Adamsberg care about ghosts killing criminals? He has his own reason for taking a tour of the countryside. Soon after the woman visits him, a nasty and unloved local disappears and it seems that the "furious army" (this was the French title) has ridden again, but Vargas's legion of fans knows that nothing is that simple. Adamsberg has faced down vampires, werewolves and very ordinary British ghosts with Gallic insouciance and brought order and reason to the fore. This is the best Adamsberg novel yet.

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Take Five
By Jack Batten, Thomas Allen, 256 pages, $16.95

It has been 20 years, but the wait was worth it; Crang is back. After four books with his Toronto sleuth (loosely based on Robert B. Parker's Spenser), author Jack Batten left him back in the nineties and returned to journalism and non-fiction. Fans missed Crang, but eventually, we all moved on. Now, the smart and sassy Crang is back on the case with a missing client and her very large missing fee. He has three weeks to find her and the trail leads right into Toronto's lively drug trade. This is a terrific return with lots of trademark Batten touches. Not to be missed.

The Golden Egg
By Donna Leon, Atlantic Monthly, 284 pages, $26.50

"Stone, sky, gold, marble, space, proportion, chaos, disorder, glory." Where else but Venice – and who but Commissario Guido Brunetti can take us there? In this latest mystery, we have the whole kaleidoscope of Italian political cartoons posturing in the sunlight as Brunetti investigates the apparent suicide of a deaf-mute man who worked as unpaid help in a local laundry. Was his despair so great? Would someone else kill him? Leon plays off fundamental questions while continuing to build one of the finest characters in crime fiction. Brunetti has his own guidebook to Venice and his own cookbook, but he never fails to charm and seduce, just like La Serenissima herself.

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die
By Colin Cotterill, Soho Crime, 307 pages, $25.95

If it's murder in Laos, then it must require the talents of Dr. Siri, the country's national (and only) coroner. This time it's a village woman shot and killed in her bed during a burglary. Dead and buried, and yet three days later, she's up, walking about her house and village and claiming she's clairvoyant. Locals, including an army general, are asking her to contact dead relatives. Dr. Siri investigates in one of Cotterill's best books yet. Fans are going to adore this one.

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