|03 August 2016|
In these pages, we had previously encountered Armand Gamache, the Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, and his lieutenants, the suave Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir, and the meticulous Agent Isabelle Lacoste. Louise Penny, the writer of this series, is perhaps the best writer of the cozy mystery who’s currently active.
We have been familiarized with Three Pines, the tiny village to the south of Montreal in Québec, Canada. We have been introduced to the delicate, old world charm of the place, and the quirky, warm and gentle people that inhabit it – the painter couple, Peter and Clara Morrow; Ruth Zardo, the cantankerous old lady who is the greatest living poet in Canada; Gabri and Olivier, the gay couple who own the village bistro; and Myrna Landers, the second-hand bookstore owner. And we have been informed of the secret that Three Pines holds – the gravest of all evil resides in Three Pines. This quaint, idyllic village has had perhaps the most number of murders for any locale in fiction, per capita.
Today, I will talk about the second of the Three Pines mysteries, A Fatal Grace, which is one of my favourites of the series. Perhaps because this is the least ‘cozy’ of the series. And because it has such excellent writing.
Pretty much everyone hates CC de Poitiers. People who are not prone to extreme emotions such as hate, hate CC de Poitiers. She is some kind of an interior designer, and some king of a new-age guru, having started a quasi-home-brewed philosophy – Li Bien. She has even written a book around it, and has named the book ‘Be Calm’. It’s a curious name, because we encounter her as a violent, impatient person right from the start. She is almost indescribably cruel to her daughter, her husband, her lover, and to anyone else she encounters.
She is a blowhard, a bully, a manipulative, evil character. An Anton Chigurh-esque caricature really, right until one realizes that one has encountered people like CC de Poitiers, in parts, in the nearby world. And therein lies the excellence of Louise Penny’s writing – she creates characters that literally step out of the pages.
And, well, CC de Poitiers is dead. Murdered in the most ingenious of ways, electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake. Right in the middle of a gathering of the entire village, for the annual curling competition.
Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are therefore back at Three Pines, trying to solve the murder. Winter is approaching at Three Pines – the bitter, beautiful winter typical to Francophone Canada that can delight and kill at the same time. It will be cold. It will be paniful, sometimes. It will not be an easy case.
Don’t look for crisp, fast, gripping tales in Louise Penny’s novels. Let the people be, let the story unravel slowly. Walk around the village patiently like the Chief Inspector. Admire the greens, the trees, the forest paths and the gently falling snow. Sit back with an eggs benedict, a café au lait and some desserts, and ruminate on the case. Take your time.
Take the time out for the Three Pines mysteries. For A Fatal Grace. It’s worth your time.