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review 2019-10-28 14:00
Full Circle for Armand Gamache
A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15) - Louise Penny

So this is a very good Louise Penny book following the Armand Gamache and another change in his professional and personal life. I gave "Kingdom of the Blind" three stars due to that whole opiod epidemic thing that still gives me hives when it is referred to in this book. I think Penny is a bit repetitive at times, but not as badly as she has been in the past. Though I gave this five stars, I honestly think this is a 4.5 star book (I rounded up) due to the ridiculous side plot with Clara and her art. I would happily just read about Gamache and his cases with the villagers there as a chorus in the background. Anytime Clara is elevated in the forefront in these books though I get totally lost. I cannot keep reading about her art anymore. 


"A Better Man" has Gamache back as head of the homicide department (the job he had in the first book in the series). Gamache has been demoted and though many thought he would just resign and leave due to the insult of the job he was offered, he decides to take the position. This leaves Gamache and his son in law, Jean-Guy as both heads of homicide. Jean-Guy though is awaiting a move that will take him and his family to Paris. An officer we have me in the previous books, Agent Lysette Cloutier, is dealing with a personal matter. A friend has called her to ask for help in tracking down his missing and pregnant daughter, Vivienne. Gamache offers to go and see what's what since this way it will help smooth over things and allow Jean-Guy to focus on running the department. Of course things are not what they seem and Gamache and Cloutier are both concerned Vivienne, was murdered by her alcoholic and abusive husband. If that's not enough, we also have one of my favorites, Isabelle back and interviewing for potential jobs. She's still there though helping out Gamache on this case. And of course as I said above, we have Clara and her new art medium getting panned and slammed via social media along with Gamache's return to homicide. 


So Gamache seems even more solid in this installment. He is more thoughtful about his actions and the repercussions that can happen. He is quick to make sure he's not seen as overstepping with regards to Jean-Guy's position and the new head of the Sûreté du Québec. The whole Gamache has enemies things needs to die a quick death. I just don't have the energy for it anymore in this series. At least the ending gave us a resolution on that whole thing so I am hoping that we don't see anymore of that. Gamache is affected by the case he's working on with Cloutier. He can't help imagine what he would feel like if his daughter Annie was missing. And I do like that he is able to take a step back and give warnings to several of the police officers about their actions and how they treat suspects. I think this may be the first Penny book that touches upon police brutality. 


Jean-Guy was actually good in this one! I know, I am shocked too. Especially since I have been dragging the guy through the whole series. He's matured and is a good leader. He learned from Gamache and it's a shame we don't get a chance to see how he would have handled the role. Penny is not doing an 11th hour reprieve here, Jean-Guy, Annie, their son are really moving away. 


We also get POVs of Cloutier and Isabelle. I am looking forward to the next book since it shows some exciting things underway for Isabelle. I loved how tough Isabelle is and how she's also learned a lot from Gamache and how to take apart a case and follow through on your instincts.

We get introduced to a new character, Cameron, who I wonder will turn up in future books. 


We get the village of Three Pines. Ruth and her weird duck, her bad poetry, and her seemingly fighting back via social media at those who are attacking Gamache. The Clara thing was not good. I don't even know what to say about it other than that.


The writing was really great and I liked that for once we had everyone looking into a murder case without wider implications into a criminal conspiracy. This one had more heart I thought. The flow was great from beginning to end and the ending was a nice little surprise.

The setting of Three Pines continues to get best murdery village every awards though. Seriously, anywhere near that place should move. 


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text 2019-09-12 18:49
2019 Halloween Bingo - International Woman of Mystery
A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15) - Louise Penny

It’s Gamache’s first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter.

As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.

Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel…, he resumes the search.

As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made.


Reading for International Woman of Mystery

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text 2019-09-10 22:56
2019 Halloween Bingo - upcoming reads
The Testaments - Margaret Atwood
A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15) - Louise Penny
The Unkindest Tide (October Daye) - Seanan McGuire
Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) - Ilona Andrews

Now that's what I call spoiled for choice.



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review 2018-12-23 21:46
Kingdom of the Blind-24 Tasks
Kingdom of the Blind - Louise Penny

Read this for St. Lucia, luckily this was released in November 2018.



Not much to say with this one. I think the earlier brilliance of this series is gone honestly. I just didn't feel engaged while reading this the past two days. I think the bigger issue is that Penny flips flops back and forth between the action at the Sûreté du Québec/with a cadet and the village. I was more invested in the village happenings and with Myrna. I also 100 percent cannot keep reading about Gamache and the opioid epidemic anymore. It feels disingenuous as hell and people caring about this (due to the high number of non people of color that are being affected) is something that I wish that Penny would address if she is going to keep banging on about it. I was interested more in the murder investigation, and I really wish that Penny had made that the main focus of this book. The only good thing that I really can say is that my least favorite character may be making an exit from this series. Thank goodness.


"Kingdom of the Blind" takes place several months (I think almost a year) after the events in "Glass Houses." We have Gamache suspended from the Suerte, but yet still uncertain about his future. There is an investigation into how opioids managed to get through the net that Gamache had laid out to capture the criminal syndicate. It appears, per usual, Gamache is in someone's cross-hairs to take the blame for things. While that is going on, Gamache appears to meet a notary at an old abandoned farmhouse. To his surprise, Myrna and a young man that they don't know also shows up too. They find out that they were named as executors in a will to a woman that known of them knew. Gamache puzzles out who this woman was and why she would do such a thing. This eventually leads to a dead body and Gamache and Jean Guy trying to figure out if there are any links between these things or not. 


As I said above, the book veers back and forth between Three Pines (my favorite parts of the book) and Gamache and Jean Guy dealing with the fall out from their actions at the Sûreté du Québec. Three Pines is dealing with a blizzard that knocks out power, but causes he village to pull together. I found myself snuggling under the covers and only venturing out of bed to find hot chocolate while reading these sections. At this point, if you are a long-time reader you know everyone and their backstories. It's just nice to see Ruth, Myrna, Clara, Olivier, and others in this one. 


The Surete sections are the weakest because per usual we have Jean Guy doing his doubting Thomas routine with Gamache. I am glad Isabelle gave him a verbal slap about it. This character has shown zero growth in the last 5 books and he's getting old. I also don't see him as being a worthy successor of Gamache since he doesn't listen and likes to just treat everyone like a liar and suspect.  I was hoping that eventually this book would spin off to follow Isabelle and her family. I loved her scenes with Gamache, and was happy to see that Gamache still includes her in his thoughts, and she was active with helping with the murder investigation that took place too. 


The writing in sections was quite good, and in others felt hampered. I felt as if Penny was trying to work out in a realistic way what she threw down in the last book, it just didn't work. The flow was up and down since there are two different plots going on in this one. Only plot one (will and murder investigation) actually worked well and was firing on all cylinders. 

The setting of Three Pines in this one was appealing. 


The ending left things on a different note that I wonder about. I don't know if this is the end of the series or not. Things are left up in the air, and it does seem some characters are taking their final bow. 


St. Lucia's Day

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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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