By Adam B. Vary
Updated August 20, 2007 04:00 AM

For much of his life, Paris police Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg has been haunted by a serial killer no one else knows about: an ominous presence from his childhood who impales his victims with three perfectly aligned stabs, then pins the crime dead-to-rights on some hapless sap — like Adamsberg’s brother. Now he’s killed again, which is a bit surprising, since he died in 1987. Fred Vargas pulls you further into the mystery of Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand with a cast of beguiling eccentrics and a plot of escalating intrigue — until a rather pedestrian climax takes a bit of air out of the fun. B+