The Chalk Circle Man, By Fred Vargas

Fred Vargas, the best-selling French crime writer, had a career as an archaeologist before she created her moodily intuitive Parisian cop, Commander Adamsberg.

Full of grainy Parisian atmosphere, just as rich in offbeat humour and quirks of character as in detective intrigue, her mysteries began with this book. In a flavoursome translation by Sian Reynolds, it shows her dark charm in place from the off.

Patterns marked on Parisian streets, a favourite motif for Vargas the archaeologist, lead into a bloody and (literally) Byzantine history of deceit and murder.