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A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

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A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
Narrator: Robert Bathurs
Series: Inspector Gamache #12
Published by Macmillan Audio on August 30, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 13 hrs 33 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
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When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

I love Penny’s Gamache series and this one was even better than the last couple. Gamache has taken the position of Commander of the Sûreté academy, the last bastion of the corruption that has plagues the Sûreté and a place to stop the corruption in its earliest stages, with the training of the cadets.

And of course, there’s a murder. One of the professors is killed, and no one at the academy is above suspicion, including Gamache  and the cadets. It’s a very personal mystery for Gamache and a complicated situation. Is murder sometimes justifiable? Is anyone beyond redemption?\

As always, it’s the characters the drive the mystery. With several trips to Three Pines and the homicide at the school, we meet most of the old familiar characters we know and love, but the new folks are well-drawn. The people here are real, even Gamache. They have strengths, but faults too, loyalties and habits.

There’s also the mystery of the old map, why it was drawn, who it belonged. It makes for an interesting diversion from the malice and tension in the present day case. I love how she can weave history and philosophy into her stories. It’s makes them fuller than a lot of the similar mysteries out there. And yes, I ended up with tears in my eyes at the end, but only a bit.

This could probably be read as a stand-alone, but the series needs read from the beginning and in order to truly appreciate it.

About Louise Penny

Louise Penny (born 1958) is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Penny’s first career was as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After she turned to writing, she won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha Award for best mystery novel of the year five times and the Anthony Award for best novel of the year five times.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

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The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
Narrator: Robert Bathurst
Published by Macmillan Audio on August 25, 2015
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 12 hrs 41 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon
Add on Goodreads

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.

 

 

About Louise Penny

Louise Penny (born 1958) is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Penny’s first career was as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After she turned to writing, she won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha Award for best mystery novel of the year five times and the Anthony Award for best novel of the year five times.

Audiobook Review: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

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Audiobook Review: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
Narrator: Ralph Cosham
Series: Inspector Gamache #10
Published by Macmillan Audio on August 26, 2014
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 12 hrs 8 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. "There is a balm in Gilead," his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, "to make the wounded whole."

While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. "There’s power enough in Heaven," he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, "to cure a sin-sick soul." And then he gets up. And joins her.

Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river. To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The Land God Gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

I don’t know where to start with my feelings about The Long Way Home. I love this series, but this was not one of my favorite installments. Even though it’s a mystery, it’s more interested in character than plot, in thoughts and feelings than actions, which has been true of all Penny’s books; it’s what makes them stand out. It also makes it a series best read from the beginning, to know the characters, to learn their stories, the things that are important to them, how they interact with each other. However, it can also make it slow, a bit plodding. It’s also not a typical mystery in that it doesn’t start with a crime, it starts as the search. There are eventually crimes uncovered, and there is a murder, but not til late in the story. I don’t think that’s really a spoiler: there’s always a murder in her mysteries.

I hate to admit that I didn’t actually like Peter. I’m afraid I would have wanted Clara to find him so she could divorce him, not to save him. He was a jerk the last time around, and never one of the characters I wanted to sit down and spend time with, so it took me a while to get in to the story. After all, it is basically a search and rescue mission to save Peter.

In Penny’s mysteries the themes are fairly obvious. While most mysteries are a little simpler, mostly good versus evil or sin and redemption/punishment, her books develop other themes. Here we have healing, both physical and mental, the artistic process, and, obviously, returning home, as Gamache has retired to Three Pines and Peter has not returned, for unknown reasons. I like that it’s about thoughts and feelings, but sometimes it can be a bit slow and repetitive. How many times do we need to go over the same ground?

I listened to this on audio and Cosham, as always, did a wonderful job as narrator. He is the voice of the series for me. I like hearing the French phrases and names common in Quebec. (And sometimes I might go around the house repeating them because I like how they sound. And my daughter and husband might look at me funny.) I’m told, however, that in this one I’m missing something by not having the hardback. Apparently the texture of the cover actually enhances the story. Also, the image is from a painting by Canadian artist Charles Gagnon, an artist who figures predominantly in the book.

It’s a good book. I had to admit it had me crying at the end, even if it was a bit cheesy. Sometimes cheesy works.

I don’t know if I’m being more critical than usual because I do love this series so much, care for these characters, want to visit Three Pines, but a couple of things bothered me. First, there’s the way people treat the old poet, Ruth Zardo. Yes, she’s mean and crotchety and usually drunk, but I don’t feel like they have to constantly being flinging jabs at her. Yes, she gives as good as she gets and yes, she finds the insults amusing, but it’s a fine line between amusing and mean, and sometimes I think her friends cross over it, forgetting she’s a real person and not just a caricature. Okay, I know they’re all fictional people, not real, but you know what I mean.

Second, I felt like the mystery was wrapped up a little quickly at the end. Slow revelation is one of Penny’s strengths and the rushed ending didn’t do her characters justice.

I truly enjoyed the book and can’t wait for the next in the series. I just don’t think it was quite as strong as some of the others. Maybe that makes sense though; the urgency that Gamache had in previous books is resolved. He’s healing and maybe the overall slower pace of this one provides a kind of respite.

About Louise Penny

Louise Penny (born 1958) is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Penny’s first career was as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After she turned to writing, she won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha Award for best mystery novel of the year five times and the Anthony Award for best novel of the year five times.

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