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review 2018-04-06 16:07
"Dead Cold - Chief Inspector Gamache #2" by Louise Penny - not your typical whodunnit
Dead Cold (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2) - Louise Penny

"Dead Cold" (published in the US under the less pleasingly ambiguous and less accurate title of "A Fatal Grace") surprised me by being qualitatively very different from "Still Life", the first book in the series.


"Still Life" was a comforting, almost wistful, book in which a wise detective gently unravels the deceptions hiding a murder and, in the process, falls in love with the village of Three Pines and its inhabitants.


"Dead Cold" takes us back to Three Pines and the villagers who brought the last book to life. It captures their reactions to CeeCee, a new arrival so cold and cruel, that when she dies a dreadful death the village almost celebrates, as if a house had just landed on the Wicked Witch of the West. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache is called to Three Pines to discover the murderer.


Despite having the same setting and characters as "Still Life" and a similarly complex plot, rolled out with at a similarly leisurely pace with regular pauses for food and philosophical reflection, "Dead Cold" sets off in a new direction. It sets this direction in a beautiful and compelling way, but I found the direction itself hard to accept.


As Chief Inspector Gamache says more than once, this case is about our beliefs and how they shape our actions and define our lives. In this book, the characters hunt not only for a murderer but for the numinous.  Psalm 46 is quoted repeatedly

"Be still and know that I am God"

Gamache and a number of the other characters in the book actively seek the presence of God to provide them with direction or purpose. The God is not necessarily a Christian God.  There is a nod towards other religions, including a translation of the traditional Indian greeting, Namaste, as "The God in me greets the God in you." Leonard Cohen is also enlisted in the search for the numinous, with a quote from the lyrics of Anthem:

"Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."

Light becomes central to the discussion of the divine and the language used in the book is often truly luminous, glowing with beauty and joy. The passage in which Clara's painting of "The Three Grace's" is described is wonderful as are some of the physical descriptions of Three Pines.


Despite the beauty of the language and the skill of the exposition, I struggled with the strong influence of the divine in this book. At times, I felt as if I had wandered into a modern allegory, exploring a seeker's path through the tribulations a long life, rather than a murder mystery.


The struggle arose partly from my expectation that I WAS reading a murder mystery and not a parable and partly because I am so deeply unconvinced by the possibility of the personal experience of God in my Louise Penny led.


I resolved the struggle by accepting that I WASN'T reading a murder mystery but rather a novel that seeks to illustrate the possibility of belief as a source of good or evil that has a real impact on who we become.  I allowed that the characters described here sincerely believe in the existence of the God they seek and the Three Pines is more than a place, it is an aspiration for what a community should be.


Taken on these terms, "Dead Cold" became a delightful read with a murder mystery and a little internal Police political intrigue added as seasoning.


I ended the book feeling glad that I'd heard Louise Penny's unique voice and wondering what intent is driving this series.


Adam Sims did a great job narrating "Dead Cold". Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.


[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/138201156" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]


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review 2018-03-26 13:02
Or What I like to Call: Another Great Reckoning
A Great Reckoning - Louise Penny

Seriously though. I cannot read anymore about the corruption at the Suerte. It's boring. Unfortunately after a fantastic read "The Nature of the Beast" I felt Penny back-slid a lot and we have "A Great Reckoning." Gamache is now not retired and is the now head of the Sûreté Academy. Gamache realizes that due to the actions of the now dead Francouer, he has to root out the problem cadets who have turned into brutal officers. When a professor is found dead, it appears that maybe Gamache has not wiped out all of the corrupt officials like he thought.


How do I say this? Gamache was annoying as hell in this one. Focused on being right and not listening to anyone he forces himself into an active homicide investigation and as far as I am concerned, undermines Inspector Lacoste. I really wish they had it out about that, because I would have been pissed myself. I was over him at the half-way point and by the end really over him when you find out that he had no idea how brutal the dead professor was and that Gamache's actions (deciding to keep the professor on to see how he would react) directly led to some cadets being mentally screwed with. 


Gamache also calls in from the outside to keep an eye on the investigation (Paul Gelinas) who starts to think that maybe Gamache has something to do with the dead professor. It's a total red herring and not well done of Penny. I at no point believed that Gamache was responsible for the death and or had a random affair 20 years ago. The fact that characters who have known him forever (Reine, Jean-Guy, Lacoste) were dumb enough to even question this made me tired. 


The other characters except for I would say Myrna were straight up caricatures at this point. There is no reason why Gamache should have hid four cadets in Three Pines. And I was angry that one of the cadets was showing himself to be a racist and stays at Mryna's home. It seems in the end though all is forgiven (blech). 


Besides the death of the professor at the Academy, we have Gamache and the cadets he picks out to solve the mystery of a map that is found hidden in the bistro wall. The only reason why I gave this book 3 stars was really because the mystery of the map was the best part of this book. Just reading about that was more enjoyable than reading about the murder at the Academy and watching Gamache verbally fencing with Paul Gelinas. 


The writing went back to the worst of the worst for me in this one. Things are left unsaid (for plot reasons) Gamache doesn't tell anyone what is really going on (for plot reasons) and then we get to an ending that was a big shrug to me. I don't know why in the world people in Gamache's orbit let him get away with never sharing things. It's just crap. We get a reveal about how Gamache is connected to one of the cadets and I rolled my eyes a thousand times. 

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text 2018-03-25 14:52
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
A Great Reckoning - Louise Penny

It was a long winding road to get to the connection of Armand and Amelia. The map mystery was more interesting though ultimately not connected to the murder. I honestly don't think this was above a three star read because I really think that Penny has Gamache being infallible and he's not. Some of the decisions made don't makes sense and are only made so in the end you can see how Gamache knew all (well not all).

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text 2018-03-25 02:11
Reading progress update: I've read 75%.
A Great Reckoning - Louise Penny

I swear this book drives me bonkers. We all know Gamache isn't dirty and didn't kill anyone so why go through the pretense of everyone doubting him?? Also they better explain the cadet (Amelia) cause I'm tired of people alluding something dirty went on there. 


I will say it's good someone called Gamache out on his grand plan blowing up in his face. I don't even get what he's doing. He's not in charge of homicide and just is doing things without discussing with his former protege. Also I'm annoyed at the racist cadet (Jacques) just getting a freaking pass. I don't think Gamache is changing hearts and minds like he seems to think he is.

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text 2018-03-24 20:20
Reading progress update: I've read 30%.
A Great Reckoning - Louise Penny

My least favorite thing in this series is the corruption at the Suerte. The mystery of the map is intriguing but I'm not much interested in the cadets or the academy.

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