When I was in Nanaimo, and announced that I was particularly attracted to procedural detective fiction, I was asked if I read Louise Penny, a Canadian author of that genre whose first novel, “Still Life,” was published in 2006. What a delight that discovery was.
She has now published nine novels featuring Inspector Gamache of the Metropolitan Police in Montreal whose inquiries invariably bring him to Three Pines, a small village several miles from the city. In “Still Life” most of the characters that will populate Penny’s next eight novels are introduced and take on greater depth and complexity with each succeeding novel. There are internal conflicts within the tightknit village of Three Pines as well as the police force (Surete’ du Quebec) and Inspector Armand Gamache’s own family.
All have been engrossing reads but “The Beautiful Mystery” is my favorite, in part because of its setting in a monastery deep in the wilds of Quebec, where each of the two dozen members of the community is possessed of a remarkable singing voice along with a particular skill necessary to maintain the life of the cloistered community.
When my friends at Amazon notified me that I could pre-order Penny’s latest book, “The Long Way Home,” I go so excited that I ended up with two copies – one that I pre-ordered and one that I ordered when I forgot about the pre-order. This set me up to be doubly disappointed when I read “The Long Way Home” which seemed contrived, and a slow slog at best. There were even a couple of obvious errors. Two old codgers playing backgammon as part of an atmospheric backdrop, shatter it when one of them says, “king me” – a checkers term used with the game on the other side of the backgammon board.
I mentioned my disappointment with Penney’s latest novel to the gathering in Nanaimo and saw heads nodding in agreement around the room, so evidently I am not alone in my assessment despite the fact that when I read reviews it was being hailed as her best novel ever. Makes me wonder if the reviewers were as familiar with her work as me and my friends in Nanaimo.
If you haven’t read any of her novels, do. You are in for a treat. Just don’t start with the “The Long Way Home” or, if you do, know that subsequent reads will only get better!Posted by