Sent to a village south of Montreal to investigate the death of CC de Poitiers, an extremely unpopular woman apparently killed in an electrical accident, Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec finds that nearly everyone in town had a motive to kill her.
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?
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!
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.
“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.
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.
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 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.
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!
You don't even meet Gamache for several chapters, and yet the murder is mentioned 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.
This was such a 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.
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!
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.
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.
The second in the Three Pines series, A Fatal Grace 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.
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.