"He had heard it said that men were bastards, because once they slept with a woman they passed judgement on her. But women were worse, because they refused to sleep with you unless everything was exactly right. So not only were you weighed up and judged, you never got to sleep with anybody."
-- Fred Vargas for Adrien Danglard in The Chalk Circle Man (1997).
UPDATE: Vargas on Vargas
As a "huge fan" of classic British crime fiction, she is, she says, especially happy that the UK now counts among the 22 countries in which her books have appeared.
"When things are not going well, it's never an American or a French crime novel that I'll pick up but a British one," she says. "Conan Doyle is, of course, a master; he gives the impression of realism but in fact his is a mad, almost a surrealist world. And Agatha - Agatha mastered the fable. But she's terrifying too. She lets no one off the hook; she shows everyone could have dunnit."
Her quirky, uplifting tales have become enormously popular: Debout les Morts (1986) won the First Novel Award but sold just 1,500 copies; her latest, Sous les Vents de Neptune, was published earlier this year and has already passed the quarter-million mark, a huge success in France.
"I think it's partly because they are different from the rest of what's out there," Vargas says. "In France, the harder and tougher a book is, the more Zola or Baudelaire, the more it's literature. The amusing and the distracting don't count: Dumas still isn't on syllabuses here."