Showing posts with label Louise Penny. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louise Penny. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Spoiler alert!  If you have not read the third in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, you may want to stop reading now.  I don't reveal the identity of the murderer, but I write more than you may wish to know.

Louise Penny writes well, and I enjoyed the third book in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, with exceptions.  Had I not read Penny's two earlier books, Still Life and A Fatal Grace, I probably would have been puzzled by the side story of Chief Inspector Gamache's difficulties with his employer, the Sûreté du Québec.  Despite Penny's formidable writing gifts, her attempt to squeeze the two stories into one book seems less than successful to me.  Am I alone in thinking a mystery novel, even one that is part of a series, should stand on its own?  Even if characters in the series recur, the reader should be able to pick up any of the novels and read and enjoy.

Once again, the setting is Three Pines, the tiny, out-of-the-way, beautiful, and peaceful village - well, maybe not so peaceful, as murder is in the offing yet again.  With another murder in the same setting, the story crossed the boundary of my ability to suspend disbelief.  As I read the beginning of the book, I was much preoccupied thinking, "I can't believe this.  Another murder in Three Pines."

To detract further from the credibility of the story, with a visiting witch in tow, the villagers decide to hold a séance, just for fun, in the village "haunted" house, where terrifying events took place in the earlier mysteries, and - all too predictably - one of their group is murdered.

Except for the distracting side story, I enjoyed the middle of the book.  Alas, near the end, at the climax of the story, Gamache hopes to solve the murder - incredibly! - by gathering the villagers and returning to the "haunted" house where predictable mayhem takes place before the murder is solved.

I wanted to like the book more than I did, because Penny is a skilled writer who creates characters that come to life, and she has a gift for realistic dialogue.  The plot is the problem. The introduction of the side story, which doesn't mesh with the main story, the setting of yet another murder in the small village, and the return to predictable murder and mayhem in the "haunted" house stretched credibility beyond what was acceptable to me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Spoiler alert!

While I enjoyed the second book in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, I thought it fell short of the first, Still Life. First of all, that the story was set in the the same small, remote village of Three Pines stretched credulity a bit too far for me. Second, the story includes references to an investigation in Gamache's past that gravely affected his chances for further advancement in the Surété du Québec, but the reader is given only only the sketchiest of glimpses into the case. Third, the book concludes with another loose end left dangling. I suspect the reasoning behind the references to the past and the loose end is to entice the reader to read the next book in the series, but it bothers me because I believe each book, even stories in a series with recurring characters, should stand on its own.

Also, I guessed the identity of one of the murderers, which did not at all detract from my enjoyment of the book, but I was surprised because it almost never happens.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Many thanks to Ann Fontaine for recommending Louise Penny's mysteries. I'm about three quarters through reading "Still Life", the first book in the series with Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec in Canada. I'm enjoying the story immensely, and I still don't know whodunnit, so no spoilers.

An excerpt:
Gamache waited.

The village stirred and by seven-thirty most homes had come to life. Lucy [the deceased's golden retriever] had been let out of the Morrow home and was wandering around, sniffing. She put her nose in the air, then slowly turned and walked then trotted and finally ran to the trail through the woods that would take her home. Back to her mother. Gamache watched the golden-feathered tail disappear into the maple and cherry forest, and felt his heart break. A few minutes later Clara came out and called Lucy. A single forlorn bark was heard and Gamache watched as Clara went into the woods and returned a moment later, followed slowly by Lucy, her head down and her tail still.
That's fine writing.

Gamache suffers from vertigo, and the author describes quite well his panic when he climbs up a tree to a rickety deer stand in the woods.
Gamache dug his hands into the bark, feeling the wood pinch his palm, glad for the pain to concentrate on. His horrible fear, and the terrible betrayal, wasn't that he'd trip and fall, or even that the wooden blind would tumble to the ground. It was that he'd throw himself over the edge. That was the horror of vertigo. He felt pulled to the edge and over as if an anchor was attached to his leg. Unaided, unthreatened, he would essentially kill himself. He could see it all happen and the horror of it took his breath away and for a moment he gripped the tree, closed his eyes, and fought to breathe deeply, regularly, from his solar plexus. It worked. Slowly the terror ebbed, the certainty of flinging himself to his own death diminished.
Vertigo or acrophobia plagues me, too, and it's not simply loss of balance or dizziness in high places.  Panic sometimes takes hold when I'm at the top of a stairway or any height and, like Gamache, I fear flinging myself down from the height.  The terror dissipates only if I quickly grab a railing or something solid, or if I back away from the edge.

Though I've strayed well away from the subject of the post with my diversion to the description of Gamache's vertigo and reference to my own, the quote is another vivid example of Penny's excellent writing.  I highly recommend the Gamache mysteries.