Seeking Whom He May Devour, by Fred Vargas.
Think: werewolf legends and superstition. A small farming village in France finds that a sheep farm has discovered savaged sheep, not killed for meat but for sport. Bite marks are bigger than a normal wolf, so the return of the legend of the Merconteur Monster sets off fears which spread, as the killings continue. The beast moves on to people.
Despite being based on a werewolf legend, you see little of the wolves. Your journey is following the characters involved who decide to track a man they believe is either a werewolf, or has trained a large wolf to kill for him. This group is an odd bunch: an old shepard (Watchee), an abandoned black boy who was raised by a local white woman now under the care of Watchee (Soliman), and a musician/plumber (Camille) because she has a HGV license and the men can’t drive. They pull in an ex-lover (Adamsberg) of Camille’s because he’s an officer that can help in the hunt for the killer, which causes some tension with Camille’s new love (Lawrence, a wildlife specialist who’s been contracted to study the French wolves). It’s a highly dysfunctional group, living like travellers in close quarters, but such an endearing bunch!
I couldn’t put the book down! I just had to know what mischief they’d be up to next. What town they’d visit, who they’d be babbling about, who’d be murdered next… all with the backdrop of rural France. You also had the issues raised as Soliman found he wasn’t so accepted in other regions of France, having taken for granted how the locals had warmed to him once his adopted mother had taken him in and raised him. Watchee, as guardian and watcher, always seemed to manage to have his eye on the world and constantly aware when trouble hit. Out came his rifle and a frighteningly calm resolution to kill anyone who threatened his ‘family’, and he probably would kill them too if Adamsberg didn’t intervene.
Adamsberg took refuge amongst this group, partly for being enthralled by the wolf story, hope that Camille still loves him, and to avoid the wrath of a woman that thirsted for his blood after he shot and killed her drug dealer boyfriend during a raid…
At many points, I actually laughed out loud. The characters had so much life, and personality! Such odd people, but utterly fascinating! I really do recommend this book. 10/10!