Friday, May 11, 2007

A Fatal Grace

Louise Penny won the Dagger and Arthur Ellis awards for her first mystery, Still Life. The second, A Fatal Grace, is even better. As a traditional mystery, the highest compliment I can pay is, it's a very satisfying story. I read mysteries for character, so I love Inspector Armand Gamache. If you enjoy setting and appreciate Julia Spencer-Fleming for that reason, Penny's books are just as satisfying.

Still Life was set in autumn, and it's now Christmas in the small Quebec village of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers, her daughter Crie, and her husband, Richard Lyon, have bought a house in town. CC is dislikable. She despises her daughter and husband, the townspeople, and even her photographer lover. Penny indicates what kind of person CC is in the opening sentence of the book. "Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have bought her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift." Three Pines is described as a magical life, the setting of a department store Christmas window. But, CC de Poitiers brought something unsavory to Three Pines.

Inspector Armand Gamache was with his wife, selecting the case of a dead bag lady to investigate, when he was called to Three Pines. CC had been electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, at a curling match. He was at "the beginning of another mystery. But Gamache knew the mystery, like all murders, had begun long ago. This was neither the beginning nor the end."

Louise Penny brings Gamache and the villagers of Three Pines to life. The reader learns more about all of them in A Fatal Grace. Gamache and his wife are brought to life, and the story is told about the investigation that has haunted Gamache and his superiors. It continues to hang over his head, and the series. Penny's books do not hide the cruelty of murder. But in Gamache, she has created a man who loves other people, and tries to understand the murderer as well as the victim. Her mysteries, and her characters, have a strength and beauty.

Louise Penny's A Fatal Grace is one of the best mysteries I've read this year.

Louise Penny's website is

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007. ISBN 9780312352561 (hardcover), 320p.


Roberta R said...

Lesa, Thanks so much for your review of FATAL GRACE. I loved STILL LIFE so much, I've been afraid that Penny's second book might not be as good. Now I can't wait to read it!

Lesa said...

Roberta, you're in for a treat. It's definitely going to be on my list of best books of 2007. Her next book will be set in the spring in Three Pines. I can't wait to return there at that time of year.