Louise Penny, “A Fatal Grace”

I had somewhat mixed feelings about Louise Penny’s Still Life. I liked her quirky, wise detective, Armand Gamache, who works with the murder squad in the Sûreté of Québec. But I was put off by the setting, the idyllic country village of Three Pines where, it seemed, the inhabitants were constantly rotating around the village green like mechanical figures in a department store window.

A Fatal Grace  just intensified that atmosphere — it’s Christmas, so now Three Pines looks like a holiday window at Lord and Taylor. The residents walk their dogs in the snow, skate, and drink so much hot chocolate that I swore, about 15% of the way in, to stop reading the moment another cup of hot chocolate appeared. (The villagers switched to Scotch at that point.) Now, it’s possible that Penny is exaggerating the bucolic charm to contrast with her Gothic plot, and I didn’t pick up the signals. But I zipped through this book in a mood of suppressed irritation, unimpressed by the plotting, bored by the shorthand characterizations. True, it’s the second book of a series and we’ve met most of these people before, but they shouldn’t be reduced to a few attributes and then pushed around like furniture.

I’ve been assured by the very reliable Annie that Penny’s books develop into something more interesting so perhaps the problem is the adorable little diorama village. Perhaps if I leap ahead in the series the attractive detective Gamache will turn to crime in Montreal. That would be a relief.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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9 Responses to Louise Penny, “A Fatal Grace”

  1. Nathalie Foy says:

    Still Life left me cold, too. Cardboard characters, I thought. And I really wanted to like it because it was a Canadian mystery that was getting such great press. Are you going to read more?

  2. carolwallace says:

    I don’t know, Nathalie. Annie recommended her and said she was one of those writers who improves and Annie’s very discerning. I may jump ahead to one of the later books and see if I agree with Annie, but not for a while. I’ll let you know!

  3. Annie says:

    Thanks for the endorsement, I am very flattered. If you want a city setting the you will have to move forward to ‘Bury the Dead’, although it’s not Montreal. The book is excellent, but you might have difficulty following it if you haven’t read its immediate predecessor ‘The Brutal Telling’.

  4. Jenny says:

    I’ve resisted these, though I’ve had them recommended by friends. Hmmm. I’d like to like them, but this is not encouraging. 🙂

  5. carolwallace says:

    Jenny, I’m going to give them one more try. Annie has excellent taste. Be sure I will let you know!

  6. Paula says:

    Could that be some of your hardened new York sensibility opposing small town charm setting? I’d be the same way with a Midwest suburban setting. But then again, maybe Penney does overdo it.

    I liked her first book, but haven’t tried this second one. I’d say if in two you have such disdain, move on from the series- so many books, so little time.

  7. Pingback: Follow my book blog, “Book Group of One” | | Carol Wallace BooksCarol Wallace Books

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