In May, a farmer discovers the body of a naked 15-year-old girl in a rose field, killed by a blow to the back of her head. The girl's hair has been shaved and taken by the murderer, along with her clothes. The people of Grasse suspect the Gypsies, despite the fact that there haven't been Gypsies in the area since December, so they move on to suspecting the Italian migrant workers, and then a number of other groups. When the Italians arrive to hire themselves out for picking, they are hired but treated with caution. Not long after, two young Italian girls are found murdered in the same fashion as the first girl.
This chapter is a study of human nature and the nature of fear itself. The people of Grasse cannot conceptualize that it's possibly one of their own who is murdering girls, and so they shift the blame from one group to the next. The reader is aware that Grenouille is the murderer, of course, and we finally see his methods in action on humans, now that he has learned all he needed to.
Fear spreads like wildfire. Farmers allow the migrant workers to sleep in their barns, patrols are set up in neighborhoods, and a curfew is placed on females after dusk. However, all these measures prove ineffective, as a young girl is murdered weekly throughout the summer. All the girls are beautiful and approaching womanhood, mostly dark and “sugary.”
By not including mention of Grenouille specifically, the narrator garners sympathy and identification with the people of Grasse. The reader also knows that Grenouille is so effective because of his sense of smell and lack of scent.
Anyone who can afford to do so sends their daughters away from Grasse. The police lieutenant is replaced, and his successor has the victims' bodies examined. They're all found to be virgins, which only increases the sense of horror. The town council petitions the local bishop to excommunicate the murderer, and at the end of September, the bishop does so—and the murders cease immediately. The murderer had killed 24 girls.
This moment shows the power of religion and government in action, but we also see how smart Grenouille is about these murders. By ceasing his killing spree after the bishop excommunicates the murderer, Grenouille effectively lulls everyone into believing that the church truly has power over the murderer.
In December, reports from Grenoble indicate that there is a serial murderer there strangling and tearing his female victims' clothes, and despite the very different methods, the people of Grasse are convinced that the murderer is the same. In January of 1766, security measures in Grasse are lifted. However, anyone with a daughter approaching the victims’ age still fears for her safety.
Nobody in Grasse wants to believe that the murderer is still among them, choosing to believe instead something that allows them to easily sleep at night. Again the descriptions of human nature seem to confirm some of Grenouille’s misanthropic views.