Monday, October 5, 2015

Louise Penny's "A Fatal Grace"

C.C. de Poitiers isn’t the most likable of people. She bullies her husband and overweight daughter. She bullies the photographer she’s having an affair with. She’s deliberately hurtful and cruel to her new neighbors in Three Pines in Quebec, where she’s recently moved and occupied the largest house in the village. She is planning a major push for her book, Be Calm, in which she articulates of a philosophy of never showing emotion, and no one is going to get in her way.

But someone does. Someone devises and implements death by electrocution, with dozens of witnesses around who are watching a local curling match (a winter sport popular in Canada). The problem is that it might be easier to eliminate the few suspects who didn’t have a motive.

A Fatal Grace is Louise Perry’s second mystery novel featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Homicide Division of the Montreal Surete, and it is a psychological treat.

Gamache and his team, along with the same dysfunctional detective sent by Gamache’s superiors in the first mystery novel, Still Life, are dispatched to investigate. But this is more than a murder; the death of C.C. de Poitiers becomes a prism through which the characters examine themselves and others. This is even more true for Gamache, who is still struggling with the aftermath of a case that ended in a mess, and actually didn’t end at all. Penny uses this story to expand upon what happened in that case and what role Gamache actually played.

Louise Penny
The investigation leads back to Montreal, where the death of a homeless woman seems connected to the electrocution, and then returns to three Pines, for it is in this quiet village of writers, artists and antique shops where the truth lies buried, and lies buried in the distant past.

Penny weaves the two deaths, Gamache’s professional struggles, police department politics and the personal politics of the local townspeople together in an intriguing mystery. Particularly noteworthy is how she develops the physical setting as part of the story – a brutal Canadian winter.

A Fatal Grace is a winner. (And there are several more of the Gamache novels to read.)

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

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