Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Fatal Grace is the second in Louise Penny’s excellent series featuring Sûreté du Québec Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Gamache returns to the small town of Three Pines when one of its residents is electrocuted during a curling match. It soon becomes clear that this was no accident, it was murder. Gamache discovers the victim, who is not liked by anyone, including her family, is not who she said she was. Slowly, but surely Gamache peels back layer after layer in his search for the killer. As each layer is stripped away, he learns something new about the residents of the small town, about the deceased, and about the murderer.

As with all the books in this series, there are recurring characters. While you don’t necessarily have to read the series in the order it was written, you will miss the joy of getting to know them as Gamache speaks with each one. While Gamache heads the investigation, his team, including a spy working for the head of the Sûreté du Québec, is instrumental in turning up pieces of the puzzle that Gamache finally puts together in order to discover who the killer was.

One of the things that readers will savor in Penny’s books is her ability to turn a phrase. One of my favorites from this book is when Gamache speaks about his deceased dog, “Gamache had had the impression it wasn’t that his old heart had stopped, but that Sonny had finally given it all away.”

Penny’s descriptions of the winter weather will have the reader inching up the thermostat so vividly does the author make the reader feel the bitter cold of a winter’s day in Three Pines. Better yet, though, is the author’s ability to evoke the winter scenes in our minds allowing us to see what Gamache sees as he sits in the local bistro watching the residents hurrying by to get out of the cold, all except the elderly and curmudgeonly poet Ruth Zardo who sits on a bench in the park every day at 5:00 p.m. regardless of the weather.

This is one of the best series being written today. Penny is in the same league with P.D. James, Charles Todd, and Laurie R. King. Don’t miss this author and her series starting with Still Life.

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