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Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Only Louise Penny (or Armand Gamache) could correlate the death of a Surete Academy professor in Montreal with a map drawn during the first world war that was found in the walls of Gavri and Olivier’s bistro in Three Pines. And it works, to some extent.

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While performing renovations on their bistro, Gavri and Olivier uncover, in the walls, a map of Three Pines. It’s not just any map. It’s got a snowman on it. It’s got pyramids that don’t exist. It is extremely detailed and it is determined that it is an Orienteering map, one of the first. (If you don’t what orienteering is, which I did not, read the book or look it up.)

After nearly dying while exposing vast corruption in the Surete, Chief Inspector Gamache has to decide what to do next. Recuperating in Three Pines, though an idyllic location, is not enough to keep Gamache satisfied. He has had several offers but ultimately decides to run the Surete Academy du Quebec. Cadets have been ruthlessly trained to use brawn before brain, producing an overly aggressive, less compassionate, potentially corrupt police force. His goal is to root out corruption and brutality but he surprises everyone by keeping Professor Serge Leduc, a sadistic, manipulative professor and a main cause of these brutal graduates.

When Leduc is found shot to death in his academy rooms and a copy of Three Pines map is found in his night table, shadows are cast on four cadets, as well as Gamache himself. It is up to his protege, Isabelle Lacoste, and his son in law to solve the murder and exonerate his name.

As with all Louise Penny/Armand Gamache books, the remarkable cast of Ruth and her duck, Rosa, Myrna, Clara, Gavri and Olivier, and Gamache’s wife, Reine-Marie, take major roles.  It is their eccentricities that make the book. Gamache comes off as too goody-goody, too ethically superior to everyone else, almost God-like…a bit too much. But the action and the characters propel this novel forward. Also, as with all Armand Gamache books, it is a good read. It is a welcome addition to a fun series.

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I’m sort of all over the place with the Inspector Gamache series.HowTheLightGetsIn Back in 2011 I read The Fatal Grace which is the second book in the series. Then last year I read The Long Way Home which is the last book in the series (so far) and now I’ve read How the Light Gets In which preceded The Long Way Home. Why? Because The Long Way Home refers back to its predecessor, so I thought it would answer all my questions. Well, it answered many of them, but there’s still some history I don’t know. So, if you’re going to attempt an Inspector Gamache book, I’d start from the beginning, Still Life. How the Light Gets In is totally enjoyable, but a little backstory would have helped.

The story starts with Audrey Villeneuve driving into Montreal from the suburbs but nervous about driving through the Ville-Marie Tunnel. In Chapter Two, Constance Pineault is visiting her friend and former therapist, Myrna, in the idyllic little town of Three Pines. (For the uninitiated, Myrna is a regular in this series–the bookstore owner in Three Pines.) Chapter Three outlines the decimation of Gamache’s Homicide Squad (one of the best in the country) by his superiors (a result of actions taken in a previous book). He fears there is something untoward occurring in the Surete but has no idea what it is or evidence to back up his hunch. Many of his superiors think he’s crazy and many of his staff have readily deserted him.

Soon, both Audrey and Constance are dead, the former an apparent suicide and the latter violently murdered. Gamache is leading both cases while still searching for proof of illegal activity within the Surete. In the murder investigations he has his only departmental ally, Inspector Isabelle Lacoste. In his search of the Surete, he has banded together an unlikely group.

That’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot, except for the fact I found it a little far-fetched. However, How the Light Gets In is still an absorbing read. I did not want to put it down. Louise Penny is a master at describing people and actions and emotion. She has created the idyllic town of Three Pines. It’s where I want to retire. It’s got a B&B, a bookstore, a bistro, a little town square and a group of people who will friend you until the end. It’s in a beautiful valley with three tall pine trees in the center of town and mountains of pines visible out the windows. I can visualize it and couldn’t fathom a more beautiful place.

The characters are wonderful and quirky. Ruth, a poet with a pet duck, Rosa. Clara the artist. Myrna the bookstore owner, Gabri and Olivier, the B&B and bistro owners, and of course, Henri, Gamache’s dog.. Everyone knows everyone and tolerates everyone’s idiosyncrasies.

The action is more cerebral than physical, which I like. It’s the thought processes and character interaction that intrigue me.

OldWineShadeThe author closest to Louise Penny that comes to mind is Martha Grimes and her Chief Inspector Richard Jury series. Her Long Piddleton is England’s equivalent of Canada’s Three Pines. And Sergeant Wiggins, Lord Melrose Plant, Aunt Agatha, Marshall Trueblood, Diane DeMorney, Vivian Rivington and Theo Wrenn Browne are the oddball cast of characters. In the Richard Jury series, he always befriends dogs and children. And while his cast of characters is somewhat more comic, the homey feeling you get while reading the books is quite similar to the Inspector Gamache series.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I highly recommend both the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny and the Chief Inspector Richard Jury series by Martha Grime.

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TheDevilYouKnowWhen Evie was eleven, her best friend, Lianne, was abducted by an unknown. Her body was found twelve days later. Evie is now a 22 year old reporter and the case is still unsolved, although police think they know who the perpetrator was. Unfortunately (a) they can’t prove it and (b) they can’t locate him.

Ever since the abduction, Evie has been fixated on the case, initially reading the gory details in the newspapers. Eleven years later, she still can’t get it out of her mind. Her current assignment is compiling a list of all the abducted girls over the past 20-30 years, in order to prove that things are getting worse, instead of better. Of course, this brings back all the memories of Lianne’s disappearance.

Although Evie denies it, her new immersion into missing girls is taking over her well being. She ‘remembers’ things she’d forgotten at the time Lianne went missing. She’s finding links between people that may or may not be important–or real. She fears that someone is following her, looking into her apartment. Her parents are concerned for her. Her best friend, David, two years younger, who she used to babysit for, is concerned. Is what she purports to see reality or a vivid imagination or hallucination?

De Mariaffi, whose only other published works is a collection of short stories, has penned quite the intriguing book. There is suspense on every page, right up to the end (think music constantly forewarning danger playing in the background–this would make a great movie adaptation). She has readers convinced ‘who done it’. She constantly skips around time-wise. Evie can be talking to David one minute and without notice she’s thinking of things that happened eleven years ago or yesterday. While it is sometimes disconcerting, it just adds to the imbalance of Evie’s jumbled mind.

There are no quotation marks when characters speak, making it difficult to determine whether it’s a thought, spoken word, or description. In many ways, this book is written as a ‘train of thought’ book, skipping around as would one’s mind as it races through various thoughts, possibilities, scenarios.

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the ending. It’s not what I expected. Let me know your thoughts after you read The Devil You Know. It is absolutely worth the read.

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LongWayHomeFor some reason I think I’ve read a Inspector Gamache mystery before but have no record of it. The Long Way Home got excellent reviews and I thought I’d give it a try. It was well worth the read.

One of the best ways to describe the Gamache mysteries is it is the Canadian version of Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury mysteries with Gamache being Jury and his entourage emulating Jury’s. Instead of the ever present dog in the Jury mysteries, there is a duck in Gamache’s. It is the same type of read, though.

Gamache has retired to the small Canadian town of Three Pines to recoup after a serious case. After walking with his wife and his dog each morning, he sits on a park bench overlooking the valley and reads from a small book…but he never progresses in the book.

Each morning, also, his artist neighbor Clara sits beside him and all the townspeople wonder why because they don’t converse. One day she gets up the nerve to talk to him. It seems slightly over a year ago she and her husband, Peter, also an artist, took a break from each other. They agreed that one year from the date of the breakup they would meet and reevaluate. But Peter hasn’t shown up, which is very unlike him.

This statement and request for assistance ultimately involves Gamache, his wife Reine-Marie, his son-in-law Jean-Guy also a police officer, Clara, and neighbors Ruth and Myrna. It’s interesting because the characters talk about art and muses. They visit the small scenic villages that you picture in Canada and England. The plot takes some unusual and unpredictable twists. With 50 pages left, there’s no violence.

Once I got started, I read the book for the characters, not the plot. Poet Ruth is a blast–sort of like Melrose Plant’s aunt Lady Agatha in the Grimes’ series.

Martha Grimes fans and Louise Penny fans should switch books because if you like one, you’ll surely like the other. A totally enjoyable read.

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