A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

by Louise Penny

Paperback, 2011

Call number





Minotaur Books (2011), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages


Fiction. Mystery. HTML: Winner of the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel! From the Dagger award winning author Louise Penny comes the second Armand Gamache mystery set in the stunning countryside of Quebec. Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder. No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter�??and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder�??or brilliant enough to succeed? With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache him… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
The first of these warm, acutely and accurately observed, scrumptiously comfy cozy mysteries, "Still Life" hooked me in completely to the world of Gamache, the Surete (weeeeurrrrnh goes the WWII siren, off to catch Jews in Nazi Paris, the line of Traction Avant sedans hurtling through the
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rain-soaked night) of Quebec, and the madhouse-meets-retirement-home that is Three Pines. It had its issues, including an inordinate focus on a minor character's past when that character was shuffled off tout suite before the end of the book. But it was perfectly wonderful, and I fell in love with it immediatment.

The second entry is more assured a performance on every level, and the minor character is back again, despite being shuffled off last book. It's amazing how annoyed I was at the appearance of a character I disliked so very much. I *resented* having even the name on so many pages! I know Inspector Beauvoir, Gamache's second-in-command, felt the same way.

The interpersonal dynamics in this book are stellar. Gamache et sa femme, Reine-Marie, are clearly the best-suited married couple in all of fiction. Gamache and Beauvoir love each other deeply, in a tender and gentle way, and it never shades into prurience or sentimentality. How Penny achieves that, I cannot venture to guess, but I wish to goodness she'd give lessons to Anne Rice and Stephen King in how it's done.

The two murders in this book are both heart-wrenching, though for completely different reasons. Their solutions are exactly in tune with the series's ethos, and the events of a cold winter's night that take place on a lake will, unless you are insentient or a sociopath, make you take a Kleenex break until you're eyes actually smart from crying in...in...joyous furious sadness.

I've always had it in my mind that I'd spend my declining years in Skookumchuk, British Columbia, because well who doesn't want to live in a place called Skookumchuk? Daily laughter guaranteed! But now I want to grow old in Three Pines, next door to Clara and Myrna and with Reine-Marie and Armand at the top of the hill. One will always be safe, if not from murder, then from the outrages of the wider, more callous, uncaring world. That's worth a lot.

And did I mention I recommend the book?
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LibraryThing member brenzi
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is on the case again in Book 2 of the Three Pines mystery series by Louise Penny. For a small town in rural Quebec, there are an awful lot of murders. And once again Gamache brings his quiet, thoughtful, cerebral detective skills to the forefront in helping to solve
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the crime in this police procedural. And also once again the residents provide all the charm needed to make you wish you lived in their midst.

It’s Christmas and the residents are clinging to their holiday traditions which include a big community breakfast followed by a curling match. As the match reaches a pivotal point, CC dePointiers is suddenly lying on the ground, dead. Finding out who murdered her, how and why, is much more difficult than anticipated. After all, CC was an outsider who had purchased the old Hadley place, where Gamache had experienced a frightening episode when he was in Three Pines for the last murder investigation. She was not well-liked by those in the community who knew her, which made the suspect list very lengthy. Her haughty attitude and mean-spiritedness made it difficult to find anyone who thought highly of her. Her spouse, a likely suspect in any murder, is not looking very likely to the good chief inspector. Like in the first book, different possibilities are explored, you think you’ve got it figured out and then, bang, it goes off in another direction.

Along the way you get to enjoy the poetry and caustic wit of Ruth Zardo, the elderly Fire Chief and purveyor of all things cynical. I loved this part on page 180:

“I wonder who her parents were? said Gabri. She was in her forties, right? So they’d probably be in their seventies at least. Like you.” Gabri turned to Ruth who waited a moment then spoke.

‘Long dead and buried in another town,
My mother hasn’t finished with me yet.’

“From a poem?” Gamache asked when Ruth had finished. It sounded familiar.

“You think?” said Ruth with a snarl.

‘When my death us do part
Then shall forgiven and forgiving meet again,
Or will it be, as always was, too late?’

“Oh thank God. I thought we’d be without your poetry for one night,” said Gabri. “Please continue. I don’t feel quite suicidal enough.”

Funny, sad, tender, wonderful.

I started this series in January and I’m trying to stretch it out because it’s so enjoyable. I had stopped reading mysteries many years ago because most were very predictable and only a total moron couldn’t guess whodunit. But this cozy little series is exceptionally well done. The characters are so well-drawn and complex and there just aren’t that many books where I want to actually live with the characters in their comfy, cozy little town. I want to move to Three Pines!
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LibraryThing member cyderry
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is once again sent to Three Pines to investigate a murder. CC de Poitiers is electrocuted while in the middle of a frozen pond watching a curling match on Boxing Day. How is that possible? Inspector Gamache sets to work determining the means, motive and opportunity of
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such a strange and intricate murder lead to unusual discoveries as well as bringing back painful memories of his previous time in Three Pines.

The characters and setting are so beautifully detailed. Drawn within the mystery are 3 dimensional characters that are funny, true-to-life, and people that you want to take to your heart and name as your friends. The reader understands how much Armand adores his wife, feels the hesitation of the new team members, and wonder along with the inhabitants of Three Pines as they try to understand the behavior of the victim and how it was the cause of the murder,
Gamache instills loyalty and respect from his team while working to inspire all those around him.

It took me a while to get into this book because I had to think back to the first one and it took several chapters to get to the point where I felt comfortable again with the characters. We are given a glimpse into the farther reaching aspects of Gamache's life with some hints leaving the reader hanging and searching for resolution in the future. The series is entertaining with a beautiful setting and heartwarming characters.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
Ruthless socialite and self-proclaimed wellness guru, CC de Poitiers, is electrocuted at a Christmas curling competition in Three Pines, and Armand Gamache is back on the scene with his team. CC, a callous, vicious woman, has alienated the entire community of Three Pines over the course of her
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relatively short residence there; and in business circles, she is something of a cheap joke. Thus the challenge for Gamache is not to find someone with motive for murder, but rather to narrow down a long list of those with motive.

“Murder was deeply human, the murdered and the murderer. To describe the murderer as a monstrosity, a grotesque, was to give him an unfair advantage. no. Murderers were human, and at the root of each murder was an emotion. Warped, no doubt. Twisted and ugly. But an emotion. And one so powerful it had driven a man to make a ghost.” (Ch 20)

Penny masterfully manages not only the murder mystery in Fatal Grace, but also an intriguing backstory. Her sense of place, Christmas in rural Quebec, is wonderfully evocative. And I laughed more than once at her good-natured Anglo/Franco ribbing, so characteristic of that part of Canada. My single criticism is of Penny’s tendency to occasionally overwrite, which causes otherwise interesting and important details to be launched outside the realm of believability.

This has become a favourite series. I must have more Gamache, more Three Pines, and more of its vivid characters! Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member katiekrug
In a nutshell: Strong sophomore effort in the Inspector Gamache series.

I read Penny’s first mystery, Still Life, at the start of the year, and while I thought it was good, I didn’t really understand all the rave reviews of the series I had heard. But after finishing the second in the series, I
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am starting to understand. While I had some complaints about this one, they were minor and were far outweighed by the beautiful writing and imagery. A Fatal Grace is much darker than Still Life, but the darkness is broken up by startling rays of light provided by the goodness and fellowship of some of the denizens of Three Pines.

The mystery in A Fatal Grace is intriguing, but I found myself more caught up in the mystery surrounding Gamache’s past and the machinations against him from his superiors. This tangle was first hinted at in Still Life but there is much more of it in A Fatal Grace, and I look forward to learning more in the third book. My thanks to those on LT who encouraged me to stay with the series after my initial blah reaction. I plan to acquire #3 as soon as possible.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
A Fatal Grace (also published as Dead Cold) is the second in the Three Pines stories and, except for the fact that you don't have that "first date" excitement of find a new series you enjoy, it's almost as good as the first book. I say almost because, though Penny went to some lengths to try to set
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up a number of plausible suspects à la Christie, it's much easier to guess what has actually happened this time than it was in the first. The hidden connections between various characters, the meaning of the cryptic letters, etc.—these things are more transparent to the reader than they are to the investigators.

Yet, this is still one of the most enjoyable series I've encountered in a while. Three Pines is still as cozy and inviting as ever; Ruth Zardo is still as cantankerous; Armand Gamache becomes more fleshed out as we get a bit more of a peek into his home life.

I found the ending particularly enjoyable (that might not be the right word) because it avoided the typical cozy "and everyone you like was happy until the next story comes out" ending. I also liked the introduction of a background subplot that is apparently going to span multiple books though, if Penny continues to just leave us wondering what the heck is going on...well...what is a great teaser for one book can become coy over multiple books.
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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
Penny's novels aren't great for the mystery (I discovered the murderer half-way through), but they are great for the sensitivity and incredible character development. No one is who he or she seems : they all have a compelling complexity that makes them attractive and loveable - even when they're
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brash or egotistical. The literary allusions and poetry infused through the story makes this series a book lover's delight.

The bizarre murder and network of friendships and relationships are what make this novel a page turner. I read it in a few hours engulfed by the quirks of personalities and impatient to see the patchwork revealed. These stories just get better and better; the implied cliff hanger, just makes the reader want to reach out for the next!
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LibraryThing member -Cee-
Another cold and snowy romp through Three Pines to catch a killer! OK. People get killed but it's never graphic or violent. There are so many heart-warming pages ... hearths, food and friends amidst the reality of human failures breeding loneliness and cold, dark insanity. Sadness, compassion and
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love balance the hate and pain making the story a satisfying read.

Louise Penny does not skimp on characters. This book makes you think almost anyone could be a murderer - or an accomplice - for so many reasons. Something to ponder.

I love the way Penny breathes life into her characters. Sometimes it seems there are too many, but I have the feeling some of them are being developed throughout the series. I guess this is part of the reason you want to move on to the next book. It really doesn't matter who is being killed. That's never the point. It comes down to why people do what they do. Penny's books are studies in human nature hidden in easy, delightful reading with the who dunnit aspect for flavor.
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LibraryThing member MargaretPinardAuthor
Having avoided the first Gamache novel bc I thought the premise sounded like something I wouldn't find entertaining, I'm happy to say I still really enjoyed the second one. Maybe this will make me read the first one!
You don't even meet Gamache for several chapters, and yet the murder is mentioned
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in Line 1... it's a very interesting narrative choice, and I find I wasn't turned off by it, just intrigued.
Great characters and descriptions. Made me love Three Pines. Made me feel cold! Really brought the setting to life. Would recommend to anyone who want a human-interest mystery/ thriller/ modern drama.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
The village of Three Pines seems like an idyllic retreat located just a drive away from bustling Quebec. But the beautiful scenery and warm hospitality apparently don’t insulate the town from violent crimes. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec is once again called in to
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investigate the murder of socialite CC de Poitiers. What is especially unusual about this case is the murderer’s weapon of choice; CC has been electrocuted on the ice during a curling match with the entire town in attendance.

There is so much that I loved about this book. The descriptions of the setting totally immerse you in this winter world in a small town. Just the descriptions of the brutal cold had me grabbing a sweatshirt while I read the book in warm California. And I loved the ‘Canadianness’ of this book! Curling on the pond – quaint and adorable. I loved the characters in this book, from the likeable hero, Inspector Gamache, to the very bitchy poet in residence Ruth. The characters are deep and complex – no stereotypes here! What is the real strength behind this story is the gradual reveal of the character flaws in everyone and the inherent good and generosity of people in general. This is my first Louise Penny story, but I will be definitely be reading the entire series from the beginning. It is rare that I give 5 stars for genre fiction, but this story was a pleasure to read and gave me lots to ponder after the last page.
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LibraryThing member sarah-e
Armand Gamache solves the case again! I was pleased with how it all came together. I had a better instinct with the whodunnit of this one than the first in this series, but the mystery still had me turning pages as fast as I could. This book sets up a subplot for Gamache that I hope will follow him
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through several books in the series. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member bell7
Nobody particularly liked CC de Poitiers and no one, even in idyllic Three Pines, is particularly torn up now that she's been murdered. Even so, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache investigates, using his trademark respect and ability to read people.

The second in the Three Pines series, A Fatal Grace
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could be read before as a standalone; however, readers familiar with the inhabitants of Three Pines - such as Peter and Clara Morrow, Gabri, Olivier, Ruth, Myrna and, of course, Inspector Gamache himself - will appreciate the return of beloved characters (and probably best be able to keep track of them all!). Personally, I loved the first book, Still Life, and was a little afraid I had unreachable expectations for A Fatal Grace, but the book delivers in spades. This is a really delightful mystery series offering a little bit of everything, including human emotion and psychology, poetry, and hints of the past affecting the present for Inspector Gamache and his team. I really look forward to seeing how this series continues to develop.
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LibraryThing member maggie1961
This author was one that I have been meaning to read for a long time and was recommended by several people. This was the first of Louise Penny’s I have read, the second in her series. While there were references to the first book, it didn’t really have an impact on this story.
This was such a
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good thriller. While I did have it figured out pretty early in the book, I love this author’s story telling. Mostly thriller with some humour thrown in. The only negative I would say, and it’s not really negative is the French phrasing without explanations. Living in Canada, I relied on my High school French to get me through but someone not familiar with French would miss out on some phrasing or short discussions unless they looked up the translation.
I look forward to reading many more in this series.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
I enjoyed Louise Penny's first novel, Still Life, and its sequel is every bit as good as the first one was. Penny is of the school of mystery writers for whom character is a vital element of the murder, and character development is one of her strengths. The people of the small Quebec village, Three
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Pines, all seem very real. I was glad that so many of the characters from Still Life appeared in this book, too. A continuing thread involving behind-the scenes maneuvering within the Sûreté against Chief Inspector Gamache has me looking forward to further series installments.

I've wanted to visit Quebec ever since I worked on a school project in the 5th grade, but I haven't made it there yet. This series has renewed my desire to visit this part of the world. After reading this book, set during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, I've decided that I really want to visit Quebec in the warmer months of the year. The author described the winter weather so well that I could feel the chill even in our 80 degree temperatures!
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LibraryThing member retlibrary
This is the 2nd in the Inspector Gamache series. I enjoy everything about these books. The main character is totally endearing. The secondary characters are so interesting, I'd enjoy a novel focused just on them. The setting even becomes as important as a character and the plot is closely woven
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with it. The style of writing is almost poetic in places with splashes of wit and humor. Adding to my enjoyment, is the reader of these books which I've listened to on CD. His voice so fits the characters and his French is lovely. I usually prefer mysteries with more edge like Deaver, Koontz, Child, Baldacci... but Louise Penny has hit upon a formula for very entertaining novels: great characters, great plot, and integral setting. I will continue with the entire series.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
A bum meets her death outside a Montreal department store right before Christmas. In nearby Three Pines, an unliked new resident meets her death only a day or two later. It's up to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to find the persons responsible for these deaths. It was fun to revisit the wonderful
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residents of the delightful village of Three Pines again. Penny is a master at creating likeable characters and charming settings. She is one of today's best writers in this genre. Her plots are interesting, and she is a master at creating a red herring for which the reader (and even the detective) will fall. While it did not affect my like or dislike of the book, this installment in the series had some characters following Eastern philosophies in the plot.
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LibraryThing member JudyCroome

In these two books, the second and third in the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny, the quaint nativity of the first book in the series has descended into an unsophisticated humour (Frozen dog poop? Really?), which sits uneasily with
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gratuitous quotes from the literary greats. The poetic/classical inserts and re-cycled homilies became irritating and the repetitive descriptions created a pace so slow I was left almost catatonic.

There is very little ambiguity in these characters; it’s ambiguity that makes truly evil villains and truly great heroes in literature or genre fiction. Most of these characters are too flippant and shallow; even the nice people show the worst of petty human traits. [“Clara tried to stay hidden behind Myrna hoping the fiends would find her friend first.”]

The writing has a mean and arrogant streak as bad as the characters with their exaggerated extremes of good (Chief Inspector Gamache) or bad (Agent Nichol) traits. In book 2, the targets are self-published authors and people with weight problems; in book 3, the targets are (again) people who have a weight problem [“There on the screen was a long list of Googled sites, all offering to ship perfectly safe ephedra to anyone desperate and stupid enough to want it.”] These kinds of remarks, and others that litter the stories, make me uncomfortable, and reduce my enjoyment of what would otherwise be a good story.

Although Inspector Gamache is an appealing character, and the mysteries are good, I will not be continuing with this series despite having bought the next four books in an omnibus.
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LibraryThing member MusicMom41
This is the second book in the series about Armand Gamache of the Montreal police. This story also takes place in Three Pines as did the first book. Penny gives us another great mystery with strong, interesting characters and a plot with a nice twist—even if the method of murder is somewhat
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implausible. It was a great audio book for our trip and both Jim and I enjoyed it. 4 stars
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LibraryThing member pak6th
The second in the Three Pines series. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has to discover who killed a woman, who happened to be the most disliked woman in the town. Was it her mousy husband? And why is that awful Agent who messed up the last case back on this one? Another peek into the lives of French
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Canadians, this time in the cold of winter.
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LibraryThing member m4marya
a fatal grace is the american title, which of course gets you thinking that several characters might be the killer. This gets in the way of reading the story, a little bit. However, this is not a complex plot, and yet you find yourself reading well past the time you figure out who the killer is
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because the author does such a wonderful job of making you like the characters in this book. I find myself wishing that I lived in this little town with its many eccentrics.

Louise Penny has you reading her tales not for the murder mystery inside it, but for the characters. They are so well developed, and defined and real. You find yourself wanting to send them a condolance card, or add them to your Christmas card list. It is for these wonderfully flawed and loveable characters that I read these books, not the murders, though those are not to be dismissed.
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LibraryThing member RapidCityPubLib
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny is a very atmospheric and moody murder mystery that takes place in a small town near Montreal, Quebec. Chief Insp. Armand Gamache, the protagonist, is an extremely likeable character. It's a good read, as are the others in this series. (Roxann)
LibraryThing member EssFair
Gamache goes back to Three Pines to solve another murder. Good mystery with well developed and complex characters. Most have some kind of secret darkness that they are coping with. Several different groups work against Gamache to prevent him from solving the mystery. Gamache uncovers one group and
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solves the mystery in spite of the misdirection. The second group remains undercover—look for more in the next novel. One disappointment—how could some of the best detectives in Canada not know who Eleanor and Henri Poiters were?
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LibraryThing member majorbabs
This is the second in the Still Life series with Inspector Gamache of the Canadian Surete. Very witty, I laughed out loud in spots and was guessing the murderer until the end. Definitely a page-turner with wonderful characters and dialogue.
LibraryThing member thinkpinkDana
Last year I read Still Life on a whim when I saw it in the library. I am trying to stretch my mystery reading (as I have not done much) and this was a new series. I'm always glad to find that since old series I have to start at the beginning and obsessively read each and every single book until I
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catch up. What I found in Three Pines was a charming area of characters with just the right amount of quirk, irascibility and heart set within an idyllic if somewhat forgotten little town in Quebec, Canada. Best of all is Police Inspector Armand Gamache who is charming and intelligent and madly in love with his wife. Soft spoken, gentle detective Gamache inspires loyalty in his team and is well deserving of the respect and esteem given him. He is by far one of my favorite heroes in the mystery genre.

A Fatal Grace opens with the expectation that you have read and are familiar with the characters and incidents in Penny's first book. I admit that due to the passage of time this was a hardship for me and I had to stop reading and reacquaint myself with the plot and the general who's who from the first story. If you read this in book in isolation, you will be lost for at least the first 1/3 of the book. This book also widens it scope to continue to reveal elements of Gamache's life outside the Three Pines investigations that are only hinted at in the first of the series. While the mystery itself is solved by the end of the book, these farther reaching plot lines are left very much unresolved, and will be picked up again in the third installment (which I should be picking up sometime this week.) If a cozy mystery is what you have in mind, I highly recommend Louise Penny's Three Pines series.
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LibraryThing member LindaGriffin
I was impressed again with the quality of Penny's writing. You are drawn into this little Canadian village and it's inhabitants. Excellent pace. Also refreshing to see a detective who has a stable family life and a dry sense of humor.


Audie Award (Finalist — Mystery — 2008)
Agatha Award (Nominee — Novel — 2007)




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