The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #11) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: August 25, 2015

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.

Review –

A boy of nine who cried “wolf” one too many times is killed because someone DID believe his story about the “gun bigger than a house with a monster on it”. Suspicion falls on the father, who  turns out to be a deserter who fled to Canada to escape his involvement in a massacre the Vietnam War is a damaging factor in the credibility of the family. His wife, Evie, knowing nothing about his past, believed him to be a draft dodger. After he is arrested by authorities in the US, she goes to live with Ruth, the old poet, and her duck, Rosa.

As in all of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books, there are multiple focal points and another in this story is a  local argument over an amateur play being staged in the village, with the intriguing name “She sat down and wept.”Gamache  is one of the few who is chilled when he recognizes the play as the work of John Fleming, a monster whose hideous killings led to his life imprisonment in the grimmest prison in the country and he urges that the play never be produced. Around this time, the body of the boy is found in a large cave that had been covered with camouflage netting for decades.

It is Gamache  who realizes what it all means after a metal monster resembling the biblical whore of Babylon is found curled around a huge artillery gun that has been buried for years in the dense undergrowth and that was meant to become a global weapon of destruction in Canada and the United States. What makes that more fascinating is that Ms. Penny notes that such a “super gun” did exist at one time and her account of its origin and invention is based on fictionalized fact. But the super gun discovery means that Gamache  is no longer retired and terror has come to the lovely village. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Bull

Members of the Canadian intelligence service arrive as well as a mysterious professor who knows more about the gun than he admits, and suddenly the sinister shadow of John Fleming darkens the happy little village.

The strange play written by Fleming assumes major importance when it is discovered that not only the firing mechanism but the plans for the gun are missing, and only Fleming knows where they are. Gamache  is willing to cut a strange deal with the killer in return for that knowledge and the murders in Three Pines take on massive importance. As usual, Gamache is the controlling figure of the book, leading readers to suspect that he is indeed far from retired and I suspect that if the next book he will take a job that will lead in back in the direction of law enforcement while still maintaining a quiet life in Three Pines.

I had the audio version and the last several chapters had me on the edge of my seat.  Fantastic book!

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A Trick of the Light (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: August 30, 3011

“Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”

But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow’s garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara’s solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they’ve found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.

Review – 

Another crime has been committed in Three Pines and the body winds up in the garden of Clara Morrow, no less.

It happens at a reception held at Clara’s house the evening after the solo showing of her art work. The dead woman is someone from Clara’s long ago past, a best friend who was really a jealous vindictive person. Clara is never under serious suspicion because there are too many other people who had more motive to get rid of the victim.

Along side of the murder story, we learn that Inspector Beauvoir is leaning heavily on pain killers to function while his body still heals from the shooting six months earlier. We also find out that he is resentful of the Chief Inspector for leaving him during the gun fight at the vacant warehouse. If he was thinking clearly he would realize that the Chief Inspector saved his life and then went on to capture one of the terrorists and then get shot too. Beauvoir has also separated/divorced his wife and now is wanting to approach Annie, the Chief Inspector’s daughter, because he has had a crush on her for years.

The crime is solved and all is well. The Chief Inspector orders Beauvoir to get counseling and at the end of the story Beauvoir calls Annie, but we are left with our imaginations as to their conservation. (I forgot to mention that Annie and her husband, David, are having trouble and are separating)

Five stars *****

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The Hangman (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6.5) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: 2010

Louise Penny wrote:

l’ve been meaning to mention THE HANGMAN for a while. Some of you wonder if it’s part of the Gamache books. A very good question. In fact, I wrote THE HANGMAN a couple of years ago as part of GoodReads Canada – an initiative for adult emerging readers. The idea is to give adults who are improving their literacy skills adult books to read – so they don’t have to read children’s books. It’s a wonderful idea – one that started, I believe, in the UK and has since spread. THE HANGMAN is in fact a novella – written intentionally at a grade 3 level…simple words and sentences, but adult themes. It’s set in Three Pines and is a mystery featuring Gamache. But, it doesn’t really fit into the actual arc of the characters….sort of a ‘one off’. Hope I’m making sense. It’s also a fundraiser for literacy, and there are lots of wonderful writers contributing novellas to GoodReads and similar projects. It’s also good, I’ve since learned, for people learning English as second language – or after a stroke and needing to re-learn the language. So pleased to be a small part of this terrific initiative. I think your local bookstore can order a copy of THE HANGMAN, or other books in the literacy series, if you know someone who might like them.

On a cold November morning, a jogger runs through the woods in the peaceful Quebec village of Three Pines. On his run, he finds a dead man hanging from a tree.
The dead man was a guest at the local Inn and Spa. He might have been looking for peace and quiet, but something else found him. Something horrible.
Did the man take his own life? Or was he murdered? Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the crime scene. As Gamache follows the trail of clues, he opens a door into the past. And he learns the true reason why the man came to Three Pines.

Review-

This is just a very short story involving a hanging man in the village of Three Pines and it is written on a third grade level (see above)

Even though it is short, it still has the same “who-dun-it” air that all of the Inspector Gamache has and I enjoyed it very much.

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Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: September 28, 2010

It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society— where an obsessive historian’s quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?

Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smouldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. ‘It doesn’t make sense,’ Olivier’s partner writes every day. ‘He didn’t do it, you know.’ As past and present collide in this novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead.

 

Review –

There are actually three story lines going on in this installment of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series and make for a roller coaster of a ride.

The Chief Inspector is in Quebec City on leave recuperating from a horrific event where agents he knew were killed, including one that we met in The Brutal Telling, Agent Moran. He was young, engaged, red-headed and could play the fiddle and Gamache left very closed to him. The author uses flashbacks in order for us to see how the kidnapping and murders occurred and it is heart wrenching. (I cried, of course).

The second story line is the murder in the  basement of the Literary and Historical Society of a man obsessed with finding the body of the Father of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain. 

And the final story line is a revisit to the murder in Three Pines that was told in The Brutal Telling. Gamache  is receiving disquieting letters from the Gabri in the  village of Three Pines where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. “It doesn’t make sense,” Olivier’s partner writes every day. “He didn’t do it, you know.”

As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead.

All I can say is that this is the best of the series so far and if I could give it 10 stars, I would. It is a phenomenal piece of writing.

Five Stars *****

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The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #5) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: September 22, 2009

Chaos is coming, old son.
With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.
No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?
As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.
Review –
The plot is a complex blend of mystery, history, greed, art, and lies, yet even with all its complexity, its never overly complicated. It’s quite cleverly constructed, and though some reviewers compare Penny to Agatha Christie, with all due respect to Ms. Christie, and I do love her books, Penny’s books reach further than Christie’s. Penny’s books explore so much more than just the solving of a murder. The Brutal Telling, especially, explores the broader themes that give rise to a violent and desperate act like murder.
 I wondered how long it would take the author, Louise Penny, to have a villager from Three Pines, accused and convicted of a murder and that’s exactly what she did in The Brutal Telling.
We discover that one of the owners and caretakers of the Bistro and Bed and Breakfast is not as good a person from what shows on the outside. He has been greedy most of his life and has lied to everyone, even his partner.
We never find out the name of the hermit or how he came to be in the cabin full of treasures in the woods, or where the treasures came from. There are too many unanswered questions.  I believe the author will tell us in another installment of this series the answers t those and other questions, like-did Chief Inspector Armand Gamache put the right man behind bars.  I think not.
Five stars *****
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A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #4) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: January 20, 2009

It is the height of summer, and Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache are celebrating their wedding anniversary at Manoir Bellechasse, an isolated, luxurious inn not far from the village of Three Pines. But they’re not alone. The Finney family — rich, cultured, and respectable — has also arrived for a celebration of their own.


The beautiful Manoir Bellechasse might be surrounded by nature, but there is something unnatural looming. As the heat rises and the humidity closes in, some surprising guests turn up at the family reunion, and a terrible summer storm leaves behind a dead body. It is up to Chief Inspector Gamache to unearth secrets long buried and hatreds hidden behind polite smiles. The chase takes him to Three Pines, into the dark corners of his own life, and finally to a harrowing climax.

Review –

Another great installment of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series and again I had the audio version, thankfully, because there was a lot more French used in this story line.

We find out the back story of Peter Morrow, a beloved villager that makes his home in Three Pines and we can see why he is the way he is. His parents and siblings have to be the most dysfunctional people I have ever come across. We also learn more about the Chief Inspector and his father, who was reportedly a coward in the war (not true) but it shows the hurts that comes when people judge you and yours without knowing the whole story.

There is a strange child named Bean in the story and we never find out if “it”  is a boy or a girl, I thought that strange, but it doesn’t affect the story one way or the other. 

There is a murder of one the Morrow Family Reunion members and the who and how are a complete surprise.

I love this series and  it makes a very pleasant read or listen when the real world and it’s problems seem too dark.

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The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: March 1, 2008

Many mystery buffs have credited Louise Penny with the revival of the type of traditional murder mystery made famous by Agatha Christie. . . . The book’s title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamache’s personal and professional challenges — making this the series standout so far.’
–Sarah Weinman


Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruellest month is about to deliver on its threat.
It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a seance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil — until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?
Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the SQ (Sûreté du Québec) is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

Review –

Five stars *****

I am truly loving this series. It reminds me of the old Agatha Christie mysteries except these have a man in the role of the solver of crimes. 

I also like how, again ,the murderer turns out to be someone least expected-and you find out that all is never as it seems.

In this installment, Gamache’s so-called friend leaks under rumors and pictures to the newspapers and television in the hopes that it will make him resign and be the subject of such shame that he will have to leave town. BUT, this does not happen and he is found out is resigns and moves out of the area. I was thrilled that he finally got caught,

I’m currently listening to the next in the series and will report on it very soon.

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A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: May 15, 2007

Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.


No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.
When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?


With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.

Review –

Five stars *****

Again, I was lucky enough to find the audio version so I didn’t have to butcher all the French names and places.

This is only the second book in the series but I LOVE it.

I love the chemistry between all the villagers of Three Pines and the area itself is described as “quaint”. It makes me what to be there.

I don’t like how behind the scenes a supposely best friend of Chief Inspector Gamache is putting a mole in his team to spy on him and try to bring him down and get him to resign.  I have my fingers crossed that he won’t get his way.

The murderer turns out to be someone unexpected and made a a great end to the story,

Currently looking for the audio version of the next book…

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