A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2), by Louise Penny

Eight stars

Louise Penny returns with a second novel in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, just as riveting and captivating as the debut piece that offered the reader so much! While many of the familiar residents of Three Pines are in Montreal to shop for the holiday season, a newer family has begun to set-up some roots of their own in this bucolic town nestled in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. CC de Poitiers heads this family, a woman who takes no prisoners and seeks to crush those in her way, including a timid husband and emotionally abused daughter. CC is talk of the town, though not for anything she has done, even though she’d be happy to espouse her new-age way of living. During his annual Boxing Day Cold Case review, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache explores those cases the Homicide Division of the Sûreté du Québec might have overlooked. Embedded in the piles is a new case, that of a homeless woman who was found murdered just before Christmas. While not known personally to Gamache or his wife, her presence in Montreal’s downtown core could not be missed. When a call interrupts Gamache’s further exploration of the woman’s murder, it’s all hands on deck and back out to Three Pines, a journey about which the Chief Inspector has mixed feelings. When they arrive in one of the surrounding towns, the body of CC de Poitiers has been found, electrocuted. As Gamache and his Sûreté team begin digging through CC’s life, they cannot help but notice the truly Canadian surroundings, for this wretched woman died at a local curling event, having gripped the end of her chair, one that was seemingly attached to a sizeable generator. As Gamache and the others notice the raw distaste that others had for CC, they cannot help but wonder why much of CC’s life cannot be substantiated. Might she have been hiding something bigger, something even more disgusting than the tidbits she puts on display? And what of this vagrant woman that caught Gamache’s attention earlier in the week? All this and much more as Three Pines envelopes Gamache and the reader for another stunning mystery. Highly recommended for those who want a ‘quieter’ murder mystery with tons of Canadiana embedded in the narrative.

I am enjoying the early stages of my Louise Penny binge, having found something that is not only unique, but captivating in its descriptive power. Penny uses not only the peaceful Eastern Townships as her setting, but continues to provide the reader with some great character development of Armand Gamache, a man whose intellect is balanced with a compassionate side. The reader learns a sliver more about his family life, with a loving wife and an extended family who cannot comprehend his need to work so much. This slow reveal, sandwiched between the current cases, keeps me wanting to learn more, yet take a moment to see the protagonist develop before my eyes. Penny continues to explore the larger Sûreté Homicide team, including some quirks in the hierarchy and some new faces, sure to stir the pot in ways that might not have been expected in such a quaint novel. It is the collection of Three Pines locals who steal the show—as I was told they would by the friend who recommended this series—with their acerbic wit and jabs at one another. This patchwork quilt of personalities keeps the story from getting too dreary, though Penny does offer much in the way of backstory and character development, such that I am going to have to keep things straight to learn all their nuances. The story moves well in this piece, with a few moments of chronological disorder to lay some of the groundwork for the murder and how CC could be so horrid a woman. Penny ensures the reader is in the middle of the investigation, watching Gamache’s mind spin as more information comes to light at key moments in the narrative. I am well on my way to a successful binge, with a new novel set to come out soon. Bring on more Penny and keep them coming!

Kudos, Madam Penny, for intriguing me greatly. I am eager to see what else you have in store for this series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons