Narrator: Robert Bathurst
Published by Macmillan Audio on August 25, 2015
Length: 12 hrs 41 mins
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Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true. And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, it is back.
I love Penny’s Gamache series. I may want to live in Three Pines and be friends with the characters – as long as I didn’t get murdered; it’s one of those towns where you don’t want to be a minor character or a new arrival. Actually, there are a lot of new characters in this one and we know one (or more) is the killer.
The Nature of the Beast is set in Three Pines, where Inspector Gamache has now retired with his wife Reine Marie, but of course life can’t be quiet for Gamache. A young boy is killed in the village and by not believing what the boy had told him, Gamache feels partly responsible for the death. At the same time, the local amateur theater is planning on producing a play written by a serial killer. As readers, or listeners in my case, we know the two have to be connected, but the question is how. This time, the murder in small town Quebec and the secret the woods hide may have international repercussions. Solving the mystery of who the killer is almost takes a back seat in the middle of the book, but Isobel Lacoste, current Chief Inspector, realizes it and returns to basics. She’s still establishing herself as head of the department, but she’s good and getting better.
The characters, as always, are the star here, while the plot is perhaps a bit convoluted. The secrets that led to the murder go back a long way. I kind of wish I had read this one instead of listened to the audio. Bathurst did a fine job, but I miss Cosham, the narrator on all the previous installments. Ruth Zardo plays a main role here and we learn a lot about who she is, but hers was the only voice I had a real issue with. She sounded like an old man, not like Ruth. I adore Ruth and hated that I had to keep reminding myself that that voice was her.
Penny’s books tend to be about more than the whodunit. Here we see true evil and how people (we) react in the face of it, our cowardice or capitulation or bravery.
This is not my favorite in the series, but it’s enjoyable. It does stand alone, but I really recommend reading this series from the beginning. The characters grow and life circumstances change and each book is a little fuller if you know what happened before.