Friday, April 3, 2015

The Cruelest Month: Louise Penny

It wasn't until I finished this book that I realized that I had serendipitously read a novel set at Easter when that event was very close at hand. Hidden within the plot of this mystery set in a small village, the author explores the themes of the Easter season.

From the author's website:
Easter in Three Pines is a time of church services, egg hunts and seances to raise the dead.

A group of friends trudges up to the Old Hadley House, the horror on the hill, to finally rid it of the evil spirits that have so obviously plagued it, and the village, for decades. But instead of freeing a spirit, they create a new one. One of their numbers dies of fright. Or was it murder? Enter Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team from the Surete du Quebec. As they peel back the layers of flilth and artiface that have covered the haunted old home, they discover the evil isn't confined there. Some evil is guiding the actions of one of the seemingly kindly villagers.
But Gamache has a horror all his own to confront. A very personal demon is about to strike.
Easter in Three Pines. A time of rebirth, when nature comes alive. But something very unpleasant has also come alive. And it become clear - for there to be a rebirth, there first must be a death.
This is a very popular series and this book received the Agatha Award for best novel of 2008. It was also nominated for several other awards. I am almost afraid to criticize this book. However, if readers are interested in this type of series, I don't think my comments will deter them.

I did not enjoy reading the first half of the book. That portion centered on the happenings in Three Pines and the inhabitants of that area, and the beginnings of the investigation by Gamache and his team. A lot of of it seemed repetitive, going over and over the same points. There are actually two plot lines, one involving the murder and its resolution, and the other related to a plot against Gamache which has been building up gradually in previous books. Both of the plots (and the characters involved) seemed a little over the top to me.

For such an idyllic town, many of the characters are very unlikeable. Of course, some of their faults are those we all have from time to time, like envy which leads to very bad behavior. But these are characters we are supposed to like. Some of the characters are just plain wacky. I don't find them all as charming as many readers do.  Inspector Gamache is a very good protagonist, almost too good. I don't like my heroes or heroines too good or too bad, just in between. However, it is very hard not to like Gamache and his family, and he has strong bonds with most of his team.

At about the halfway point, the book picked up for me and got more interesting. So in the end, I was not disappointed in the read. I am not the only reviewer who did not love this book but I am in a minority. And among the reviews I have read that have the same quibbles that I express, most say they will continue reading the series and have heard good things about the later books. So I also will continue reading more about Inspector Gamache.

I did like the 2nd book in the series, A Fatal Grace, a lot more than this one. In my review of that book I compared it to the writing of Jane Haddam and Agatha Christie. Other reviewers have drawn the comparison to Christie. Like the Jane Haddam Gregor Demarkian series, this series seems to be darker than the usual "cozy." Like many books by Christie, the setting is small village with underlying secrets.

Other reviews:
Mysteries in Paradise
Carol's Notebook
Joe Barone's Blog


Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2008 (orig. pub. 2007)
Length:      311 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Inspecter Gamache, #3
Setting:      Quebec,  Canada
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      I purchased my copy.


Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: I will disagree on this mystery. I enjoyed the book. It helped draw me deeper into the series with the vivid presentation of Three Pines. I did not particularly like the subplot within the police. In reading the series I would have preferred not to have the internal police conflicts. I continue to wish Three Pines existed as a place to visit in Quebec.

Peggy Ann said...

Only read one of her books so far and it was okay but didn't ring any bells for me especially. But like you said so many really rave about this series. The covers are always inviting.

TracyK said...

Bill, I remember that you like this series a lot and I was interested in your opinion of this book in particular. I will continue reading the series, at least the next two books which I already own.

TracyK said...

Peggy, I am reading the series in order and I liked book #2 the best so far. Maybe because she does get so much praise, my expectations are too high. And yes, the covers are lovely.

Kay said...

I love this series. Truly love it. I encourage you to continue reading. This book is not my favorite. And I do understand what you're saying about Gamache. Trust me. He is not perfect, but I think he serves as a contrast to the bad. And Three Pines is not perfect either. There are many "not so good" characters there. This author does have a tendency to write about the flawed individual and everyone has flaws. Everyone. The story of the police plot is an interesting one. Won't say more, just read on. LOL

And, I know that not every book or every series is the right one for every reader. Happily, there are lots of books for us to choose from. Right? :-)

TracyK said...

I am glad you commented on this, Kay. I love to hear why readers love the books they read. I will continue on the series. In addition to everything else, I like books set in Canada.

You are right about there being so many books to choose from. It makes it hard to keep with the series and try new series.

Clothes In Books said...

Tracy, my reaction to this series has resembled your reaction to this book, I felt exactly as you did. But so many people like them - so many people whose views I respect! - that I keep thinking I must try another....

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I like the title and the cover as well as the fact that the mystery is set in a small village that often makes the plot more intriguing.

TracyK said...

Moira, I will continue with the series because of the setting, and hope future books live up to the praise.

TracyK said...

Prashant, the small village setting usually does narrow down the suspects. The title is very good, I agree.