Tag Archives: Chief Inspector Gamache

Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny

imageI learned my lesson last year when I reviewed the previous Chief Inspector Gamache book by Louise Penny, The Brutal Telling.

You see, I loved The Brutal Telling and quite literally gushed about it.

But I’d written the review from my perspective as a reader who had started with book one in the series; I came to The Brutal Telling with a fully developed love of the characters.

This makes a difference. I know, because some other wonderful bloggers I know picked up The Brutal Telling as their first introduction to the series, and the book wasn’t nearly as wonderful for them as it was for me.

So, I’ve now read the latest installment in the series: Bury Your Dead. And yes, I’m going to gush about it. Because Bury Your Dead is so very, very good.

There are two mysteries involved, plus a little bit of a historical mystery thrown in for good measure.

Those of you who’ve read the previous books in the series: you’re in for a treat.

Those of you who haven’t read the previous books in the series: I’m smarter this time around. I’m going to suggest you start with Still Life, the first book in the series, and read your way through to Bury Your Dead.

(And I envy you, because you’re in for such a glorious ride; yes, the Inspector Gamache books are that good.)

If you’ve read most of the series, but haven’t read The Brutal Telling yet, don’t read Bury Your Dead until you’ve read The Brutal Telling, because Bury Your Dead contains a massive spoiler.

And finally, if (or perhaps, when) you’re fully involved in the series, and have read all the previous books, then, like me, you might:

  • find yourself tearing up already by page 18, when you still don’t have a clue what’s happened to Gamache and his team, but you already know how Gamache is feeling about it, and it’s making you feel just awful.
  • find yourself riding an emotional roller coaster ride, until it becomes more clear what probably did happen, at which point you will be very sad.
  • hope against hope that perhaps it isn’t as bad as what you’re thinking, even right up to the bitter end, with the result that you’ll end the book with tears in your eyes.

Aside from this emotional backstory, the mysteries themselves are very good, too. The ending to one of the mystery threads made me feel very glad indeed. Although, as with all of the previous Gamache mysteries, the murderers are not “bad guys”, not people you love to hate, but rather real people, with both good and bad sides to them. So as always, the denouements are rather bittersweet.

And from a writer’s perspective, you’ll love the way Penny has incorporated flashbacks into the story. There are some things that stretch your credulity somewhat, but I am quite willing to put up with a bit of stretching when it comes to Gamache.

This is a very good read indeed. I made the mistake of grabbing the book at 1:30 am, when I was about 2/3rds of the way through it, with the intention of just reading “a few more chapters”. I finished reading at 3:30 am and as a result, am very tired today! But it was well worth it.

The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny

The Brutal TellingIn Louise Penny’s fifth Chief Inspector Gamache book, The Brutal Telling, the village of Three Pines is once again witness to murder. And perhaps “witness” is too light a word, because the body of the victim is found on the floor of the bistro owned by Olivier and Gabri, the bistro that is very much the heart and soul of the Three Pines community.

I’ve always thought that Louise Penny set a new standard for the traditional mystery when she came out with the first novel in the Armand Gamache series, Still Life, and as with the previous books in the series, The Brutal Telling explores the broader themes arising from the murder that lies at the heart of the mystery.

And there is more to the mystery in this book than the identity of the killer and the victim. This is a story about lies, myths and secrets, about greed and human nature, about what we treasure and what we learn to treasure. How do we know what is real, how do we discern the the truth?

“Who’s Vincent Gilbert, sir? You seemed to know him.”

“He’s a saint.”

Beauvoir laughed, but seeing Gamache’s serious face he stopped. “What do you mean?”

“There’re some people who believe that.”

“Seemed like an asshole to me.”

“The hardest part of the process. Telling them apart.”

I have grown to love and know all the recurring characters so well: Gamache, kind, just, with a quiet but powerful inner strength; Beauvoir and Lacoste, his investigative team, diligent and filled with the utmost respect and love for their superior officer; Clara, Peter, Myrna, Olivier, Gabri, all former outsiders who had stumbled onto the secret that was the village of Three Pines and made it their home; the mad, Governor-General award-winning poet, Ruth; and Three Pines itself, which is more of a character in my mind than simply a place.

And so I found The Brutal Telling to be a more intense read than any of the previous books, because in The Brutul Telling, we must watch as Three Pines is torn apart.

In addition to the mystery, I enjoyed the continuation of a number of smaller storylines, too: the progress of Clara’s artwork and Peter’s jealousy, Rosa, the duck who as a hatchling had impressed herself on Ruth, the transformation of the bleak, old and evil Hadley house.

I was not completely satisfied with the ending; the motivation didn’t feel as concrete to me as I would have liked. I don’t know, however, how much of this was due to my past relationship with the series; a reader who has read the series from the start is likely, I think, to find herself standing rather uncomfortably in Gamache’s shoes in the end.

For me, this wasn’t a book to race through; it was one I savored, taking the time to get re-acquainted with old friends once again. I closed The Brutal Telling with sadness, but I took away with me an end note of hope, too.

An aside: I also enjoyed a small side plot that found a bewildered Inspector Beauvoir showered with snippets of poetry by resident poet Ruth Zardo. Beauvoir has a bit of a macho flair to him, greatly dislikes poetry and is repulsed by Ruth; it was fun to watch him piece together the lines, and see Ruth’s poetic perception revealed as the poem emerges: “and lick you clean of fever,/and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck/and caress you into darkness and paradise.”

I’m not very good at things like this, so I might be very wrong, but I think this is a reference to something that happened to Beauvoir in the previous book, A Rule Against Murder (I just can’t see “Maddening, passionate, full of life” referring to Beauvoir’s wife Enid). If so, it was a soft, sweet thing to remember. If you’ve read both A Rule Against Murder and The Brutal Telling, what do you think? Am I on the right track?

(Note: Ruth’s poetry is actually that of Margaret Atwood, Ralph Hodgson and Mike Freeman, used with permission of the authors; the lines in this instance are from Atwood’s “Sekhmet, the Lion-headed Goddess of War”).

Another note: While I’ve given my review of this book from the standpoint of someone who’s very familiar with the series, The Brutal Telling definitely does also work as a standalone. It doesn’t contain spoilers about the previous books and you won’t need to have read the previous four books in order to understand the mystery in this book.

Another update: I might have been wrong in my assessment that this book works as a standalone, as I’ve read some reviews now where people unfamiliar with the series and the characters were somewhat disappointed with The Brutal Telling. The good thing is that it doesn’t give any spoilers, so you’ll have no trouble going back to the earlier books in the series. But if you do get the chance, it’s a very good idea to read them in order, beginning with Still Life.

Where to buy The Brutal Telling:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Minotaur Books, 2009, ARC provided by publisher, 372 pages

Review: The Murder Stone (A Rule Against Murder), by Louise Penny

The Murder Stone (A Rule Against Murder)In Louise Penny’s latest Inspector Armand Gamache mystery, The Murder Stone (A Rule Against Murder in the U.S.), Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are on holiday at Manoir Bellechasse, a luxury Québec chateau at which they stay annually. This year, though, they find themselves sharing the chateau with the wealthy Finney family, who have come to pay tribute to their father. All is not as it seems, however; tensions run high among family members and soon Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is knee deep in a murder inquiry.

I enjoyed this fourth book in the Gamache series immensely. Gone is the side plot that was explored in the first three books of the series; it was a side plot that actually took away a bit of my enjoyment of the novels (especially when it reached its crescendo in the third novel), so I was delighted with this fourth book, with its intricate mystery and a new side plot that develops Gamache’s character further.

Penny writes in the British mystery tradition of P.D. James and Elizabeth George; Gamache has been a strongly developed character from the moment he first saw life in Still Life. In The Murder Stone we see a more personal side of him in his relationship with his wife, Reine-Marie. In the following passage, Gamache is thinking about the first time he brought his wife to Manoir Bellechasse, over thirty years ago:

And so they’d lain together for the first time, the sweet scent of the forest and kitchen thyme and lilac drifting almost visible through the screened window. But the loveliest scent of all was her, fresh and warm in his strong arms. He’d written a love note to her that night. He’d covered her softly with their simple white sheet, then, sitting in the cramped rocking chair, not daring to actually rock in case he whacked the wall behind or barked his shins on the bed in front, disturbing Reine-Marie, he’d watched her breathe. Then on Manoir Bellechasse notepaper he’d written. My love knows no –

How can a man contain such –

My heart and soul have come alive –

My love for you –

All night he wrote, and next morning, taped to the bathroom mirror, Reine-Marie found the note.

I love you.

We also learn something about his past that gives us great insight into Gamache the man. Armand Gamache is a complex, intricate character: strong, kind, moral, just and like each of us, imperfect. The suspects themselves aren’t flat, hollow characters, either; Penny brings them to life as deftly as she does all the continuing characters. We come to know them, and understand more their goals, their motivations, the reasons why they are the way they are.

One of the wonderful features of the first three novels in this series is the setting of Three Pines; I’d wondered in the past how Penny would be able to continue to credibly set mysteries in Three Pines, which has been as much of a character in the series as any of the human characters. What I’ve discovered with The Murder Stone is that Gamache is strong enough to carry a storyline all on his own; the setting of Three Pines plays a minor role in the novel but this doesn’t hurt the book at all.

If you love character-driven mysteries with complex plots, you’ll find The Murder Stone a very satisfying read indeed. For those new to the series, it’s fully capable of standing on its own, although you’re likely to find yourself searching out the first three mysteries in the series once you’ve finished this one.

For fans of the series, The Murder Stone is pure delight. Gamache is a wonderful character – the author notes in the acknowledgments that she has discovered she’s modelled him after her husband. Armand Gamache is one of my favorite detectives, and I’m eagerly waiting the next book in the series, which is due out this fall.

Related Links and Fun Stuff

Louise Penny’s blog

The Murder Stone has been nominated in the category of best novel in this year’s Arthur Ellis Awards. The Arthur Ellis Awards are presented for excellence in crime writing. Winners will be announced on June 4, 2009.

Louise Penny talks about The Murder Stone:

Where to buy:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Headline, 2008, Hardcover, 320 pages

Review: The Cruellest Month, by Louise Penny

I was bitten by the book review bug earlier this year when I started writing some guest reviews at my friend Ann-Kat’s blog, Today I Read. Now that I have my own book review blog (thank you to all the book bloggers I’ve been reading for their inspiration, and Ann-Kat for her encouragement), I thought I’d link to the reviews I wrote at Today I Read, so there’s a sort of continuity.

I’m a big fan of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels. Here’s a “Snapshot Review” of The Cruellest Month:

The Snapshot Review

What I Liked: Well written mystery; the Three Pines setting is wonderful as always; enjoyed meeting all the old familiar characters again; Gamache remains as likeable as ever.

Disliked: The entire Arnot subplot. It really strained my credibility; I couldn’t see the crimes involving Arnot happening without national outrage and the initiation of a full-scale government inquiry, making the attacks on Gamache’s reputation difficult.

Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: Read the two previous Gamache mysteries first (Still Life and A Fatal Grace) so you’ll fall in love with the setting, the characters and Penny’s writing. If you’re already a fan, the book is still good read.

As you can see, it wasn’t my favourite out of the three Inspector Gamache novels; the background plot just didn’t work at all for me. Aboriginal rights and issues fall within federal jurisdiction in Canada, and given the extent of the crimes involved in the subplot, it was difficult for me to believe the whole case wouldn’t have resulted in a formal federal inquiry. Despite this, I still enjoyed the mystery part of the novel, and am looking forward to new Inspector Gamache mysteries from Louise Penny. Ms. Bookish’s Rating: B: Good Read ?

Click here to read my full review at Today I Read.