Book Review, The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

Quebec MysteryIn this Quebec mystery with Inspector Gamache the inspector has retired to the village of Three Pines, however, when a boy is killed he is compelled to find the culprit. The boy’s tall tales become clues. A gun, bigger than a house, sends the Inspector into the woods, where a dark secret comes to light. All the old favorites of Three Pines play their parts. Jean-Guy Beauvoir leads the sûreté team who come to investigate, while a bit of international intrigue adds spice.

Penny uses plenty of dialogue, fragmented sentences and a mix of descriptions, while not adding too much lengthy expositions to tell her story. As a writer, this is a good book to analyze chapter endings. How they conclude, while driving the reader on works well.

A Quebec Mystery

The Ottawa Review of Books provides another perspective on this Inspector Gamache Mystery worth reading.

Although I enjoy Penny’s series, Donna Leon’s Italian Commissario Brunetti in Drawing Conclusions is equally compelling.

Louise Penny’s next book

Check out the July 9, 2017 interview with Louise Penny on CBS News about herself, her books and her loyal followers. Her willingness to share her personal life is refreshing.

Book Review, The Nature of the Beast by Louise PennyThe Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #11) by Louise Penny
Series: Inspector Gamache Mystery #11
Published by Minotaur Books on August 25th 2015
Pages: 376
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.

Book Review, The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews

by Donna Andrews

Writing in first person, Donna Andrews, puts the reader into the quirky mysteries of Meg Langslow. Andrew’s books provide entertainment in easy to read prose. Add humor, and the afternoon slips by within Meg’s mystery.

I like that the main character is not morose. Wrapping the story around the antics of an emu round-up provides squiggle room to keep it light. Now place the entire emu crew, including a film crew, camping next to Meg’s grandma’s old house. From here, Andrews creates a recipe for humorous drama.

In this story, Meg agrees to find her long-lost grandmother, but quickly learns she died. Hence she becomes obsessed with investigating who killed her. Her grandfather’s pet project, to rescue a herd of wild emus in Virginia, overlaps with the investigation, thus casting suspicion on him. Add the emu project’s entanglement with a suspect, who’s bent on acquiring land for mineral excavation. Doesn’t look good for Grandfather.

As a writer I noted the inconsistent use of commas throughout the novel, an over use of the passive voice and more “that”s than I like. That said, I enjoyed the characters and story line.

Donna Andrews’ Series

Donna Andrews captures a niche mystery market with her Meg Langslow series. Twenty-two books and waiting.

Book Review, The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna AndrewsThe Good, the Bad, and the Emus (Meg Langslow, #17) by Donna Andrews
Published by Minotaur Books on July 8th 2014
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads

Life will never be the same for Meg Langslow after family secrets are revealed, introducing a whole new layer of intrigue in Donna Andrews's beloved series. Meg’s long-lost paternal grandfather, Dr. Blake, has hired Stanley Denton to find her grandmother Cordelia. Dr. Blake was reunited with his family when he saw Meg’s picture—she’s a dead ringer for Cordelia—and now Stanley has found a trail to his long-lost love in a small town less than an hour's drive away. He convinces Meg to come with him to meet her, but unfortunately, the woman they meet is Cordelia’s cousin—Cordelia died several months ago, and the cousin suspects she was murdered by her long-time neighbor.Stanley and Meg agree to help track down the killer and get justice for Cordelia. Grandfather even has perfect cover--he will come to stage a rescue of the feral emus and ostriches (escaped from an abandoned farm) that infest this town. He dashes off to organize the rescue—which will, of course, involve most of Meg's family and friends in Caerphilly. But then, the evil neighbor is murdered, and not only Cordelia’s cousin but also the entire contingent of emu-rescuers, who have had conflict with the neighbor, are suspects. Only Meg and the cousin—who seems to share a lot of telling traits with Meg—can find the real killer and clear the air in The Good, the Bad, and the Emus, the newest beverage-spittingly funny installment in this uproarious series from the one-and-only Donna Andrews.

Book Review, A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

A Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mystery

Louise penny’s latest Inspector Gamache mystery begins in Three An Inspector Gamache mysteryPines where we find the inspector deciding to accept the Commander position at the Sûreté academy in order to weed out corruption and the perspective of recruits from thugs to officers with integrity. (Many times I wished such practices could root out and change the police forces in some of our cities in the USA.)

When a teacher at the academy is murdered the independent inspector enlisted to oversee the investigation suspects Commander Gamache.

Inevitably, Penny includes scenes with the Quebec village of Three Pines in her stories. In this tale an orienteering map serves at the link between the tiny village and the academy. Four recruits are brought to the village to research its history. The characters Penny has developed living in Three Pines are all there, adding their usual charm.

Plenty of Suspects

There are always plenty of suspects including the independent investigator, Deputy Commissioner Gelinas; Armand’s oldest friend and later foe, Micheal Brebeuf, who Armand enlists to teach corruption, a crime Brebeuf was guilty of committing; four students close to the murdered professor; and a tactician brought in to teach, Hugo Charpentier. Jean Guy even begins questions his old boss, when he suspects Armand of being the father of a recruit. Twists keep you second guessing until the final reveal.

A Great Reckoning is a well-written mystery, although it may not include the fresh writing of some of Penny’s books.

Inspector Gamache Mysteries

Louise Penny has written twelve mysteries with Inspector Armand Gamache as lead from 2005 to 2016. Each develops the man and his connection to the quaint Quebec village of Three Pines.

Book Review, A Great Reckoning by Louise PennyA Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #12) by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #12
Published by Minotaur Books on August 30th 2016
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 389
Goodreads

The next novel in Louise Penny's #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
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.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel.

Book Review, The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery,

Many of you are familiar with Louise Penny’s Québécois inspector, Armand Gamache. A character full of warmth, compassion and, by Louise Pennyalways necessary for a great inspector, an ingenious perspective. When Gamache’s friend and neighbor’s husband fails to show up for a date on the one year anniversary of their separation she wants to know why. The search for his whereabouts leads Gamache from Paris, to Italy, to the recluse reaches of wilderness Canada, where the estranged husband has gone to redeem himself.

Penny paces her mystery. She takes the reader on circuitous paths that develop characters and enriches the overall ambiance of the story. By the end we are as fond of the isolated community of Three Pines, where Gamache lives, as the characters directly connected with the mystery. Fear not, however, as Inspector Gamaches’ patience and understanding of human psychology prevail to unravel the mystery.

Louise Penny Writes with Style

Once again I enjoyed Penny’s mystery. She writes in third person omniscient, developing the plot with care and paying attention to the details.

I didn’t like the end of The Long Way Home. It was too expected–although perhaps necessary in order to remain within the mystery genre’s expectation.

For those interested in writing: Take a look at Penny’s use of sentence fragments. She builds paragraphs on incomplete sentences that create images with the least amount of words. Penny uses this style to its fullest effect in her later novels.

Point-of-view shifts often, sometimes for only a short period of time. This technique builds rapport with multiple characters.

Although Penny breaks some of the rules teachers advocate these days, her fragmented sentences and word choices create a familiar atmosphere appropriate for the caring Inspector Gamache.

Book Review, The Long Way Home by Louise PennyThe Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #10) by Louise Penny
Series: Inspector Gamache #10
Published by Minotaur Books on August 26th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 373
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.