Armand Gamache “IS” Penny’s detective series. He is what makes it, his uncompromising character, decency and actions.
In that sense, this book stays on track. Gamache still carries the series.
Penny reliably provides us with delicious writing, full of symbolism, metaphor and foreshadowing.
Unfortunately, the rest is slipping. It’s too full of easy plot twists, relying on sketchy MacGufffins, and loose editing. You could see the plot twist over who would discover the Carfentil right from the early chapters. There is really little reason for minor characters from Three Pines to even be mentioned, and some new characters are unrealistic.
Not her best, but by very definition not every book can be.
Long time readers of these book reviews will know that Penny and I have long enjoyed an intensely deep romance, starting with delight at finding someone interesting and new, progressing through growing interest, moving to infatuation, and climaxing in her best work so far, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. Since then, our relationship has moved on, grown, less passionate, only making it stronger, more like understanding and cuddling now, spooning, accepting when she forgets to shave her legs or steals the blankets in the middle of the night. By Book #20, we’ll be checking each other’s backs for suspicious moles.
It’s because of this, that I know too much about her, that I feel comfortable giving Penny some advice, because of how much she’s exposed to me. Exposition. Explaining. There’s too much of it here. Show. Stop telling.That’ll re-kindle the romance, then.
Not as superbly plotted as other Penny novels, with some missed stitches, but Penny still nails her characterization of the complex makeup and motivation of ordinary lives.
[on having a too-controlled, button-downed, persona; relying too much on intellect and not enough on heart]
“Do you think he’d [Peter] lost his mind?”
“I think … Peter could afford to lose some of his mind. It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.”
[on being invited into an art gallery showcasing a major local artist]
“Here around him was his heritage. His country. His history. But it was more than that. Here on the wall were his insides. Out.”
On how formal education, learning, improving oneself, doesn’t always make things better…
[looking at some paintings hanging in a restaurant after having previously looked at some much superior painting by a master in a gallery]
“If he hadn’t looked into the windows of the Galerie Gagnon, Jean-Guy might have thought these [restaurant paintings] were quite good. But he had looked. And now he knew the difference. Part of him regretted that. He might now like better things, but he also liked fewer.”
Penny on feeling jealousy for what other people have, of feeling hatred towards people in your life and the devastating effect this has on yourself instead of the intended target(s). In this case, it refers both to Inspector Gamache’s feelings for his parents (who died when he was young), and successful but staid artist Peter Morrow who can’t accept that his artist wife accomplishments and talents have outstripped his own.
“It’s like drinking acid,” said Myrna, “and expecting the other person to die.”