Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Chief Inspector Gamache series, books 5 and 6

I am now a full-fledged fan of Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series. When I read the first book in the series I did not care for it enough to continue to the next book. Later, I was encouraged by good reviews to read more of them. Books 2 and 3 in the series had their good points, and I found the 4th book, A Rule Against Murder (also published as The Murder Stone), to be especially good. But now, having read The Brutal Telling and Bury Your Dead in the same month, I am committed to reading the rest of the series.

Ideally I would have read The Brutal Telling in late summer or early autumn, as that is the time of year that the story takes place. It is a lovely time in Three Pines, but a dead body is found on the floor of the Bistro, owned by Olivier Brulé. No one in Three Pines admits to knowing the mysterious man found in the Bistro. The reader is aware that Olivier knows him, but he does not admit this until he is forced to.

Of course, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team are called in. The story centers around finding out the identity of the dead man, and determining who could have killed him, and who would have had a motive. By the end of the book the man has not been identified, and someone has been charged with the murder and convicted, but the ending feels open at that point.

In The Brutal Telling, three new characters are added to the Three Pines cast. The old Hadley house has new owners, Marc and Dominique Gilbert, and they plan to turn it into a spa / bed and breakfast. Marc’s mother, Carole, lives with them.

Bury Your Dead takes place in February of the following year, in Quebec City, when Quebec Winter Carnival (or Carnaval de Québec) is about to begin. It continues the story of the murder of the man called "The Hermit," when Chief Inspector Armand Gamache requests that Inspector Beauvoir reopen the investigation of that crime in Three Pines. Meanwhile Gamache is helping with an investigation in Quebec City, the death of a man fanatically obsessed with finding the burial site of Samuel de Champlain, who founded Quebec City. Gamache is in Quebec City to rest and recover from physical and emotional wounds due to an attack by terrorists. This story is slowly revealed to the reader as Gamache remembers the day of the attack, and his rush to save an agent who is being held hostage. So this book has three story lines, a structure I liked very much.

I did not love both of these books equally. Although both books were about the same length and neither was over 400 pages, The Brutal Telling seemed too long to me. The investigation felt never ending, and I kept waiting for something to happen to change the direction of the book. I also did not like the ending of the book. Bury Your Dead, however, seemed like the perfect length and maybe that was because it had three stories to tell and the balance between the three story lines was perfect. Together, the two books were a wonderful reading experience.

Louise Penny writes beautifully, and the characters and the settings she uses are very well done. The recurring characters in Three Pines are often either very strange and/or have negative characteristics, which seems an unusual choice for an author to make. But it is nice for the characters to be less than perfect and not always likable. I also enjoyed learning more about Quebec and its history in Bury Your Dead.

It was Bill at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan who recommended reading The Brutal Telling and Bury Your Dead as a pair, and I did that. That greatly enhanced my reading of Bury Your Dead, because I would have forgotten key elements of the previous book if I had waited.


Pub. data for The Brutal Telling

Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2009
Length:      372 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Inspecter Gamache, #5
Setting:      Three Pines, Quebec,  Canada
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, 2010.

Pub. data for Bury Your Dead

Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2010
Length:      371 pages
Format:      Trade Paperback
Series:       Inspecter Gamache, #6
Setting:      Quebec,  Canada
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      I purchased my copy April 2020.


Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: Thanks for the kind words. I agree that The Brutal Telling was the weaker of the pair. My opinion of Bury Your Dead is best illustrated by my choice of the book for my favourite work of fiction in 2011. I am glad you enjoyed the books. More good reading awaits you in the series.

TracyK said...

Bill, I am glad I read your review right after finishing The Brutal Telling. Soon after that I purchased Bury Your Dead so I could read the two together.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have only read the one set in a monastery, which I found tedious. Should try BURY YOUR DEAD.

Margot Kinberg said...

I couldn't agree more with Bill, Tracy. You're in for some excellent reading as you go through this series. This is one of the top series in crime fiction, in my opinion. I think that some novels in the series are better than others, but overall, a top series.

Rick Robinson said...

I agree that reading them back-to-back is wise. It's a terrific series.

@ Patti, that one may not have been the best place to introduce the series to you. Most of the books are a little better, and that one depends so much on past events.

TracyK said...

Patti, as good as BURY YOUR DEAD is, it may not be as good a reading experience without having read the previous book. (As Rick says in his comment.) I have grown to love Penny's books and her writings, but it took several books and getting to know the characters.

TracyK said...

Margot, I think you are right, some books in the series are not as good but still worth reading. Unfortunately now I have 10 more books to read but I will space them out.

TracyK said...

Rick, finally I understand why so many readers are so fond of this series.

Cath said...

I actually think Louise Penny hit her stride with this series at The Brutal Telling. Bury Your Dead is, I think, my favourite so far but I loved The Beautiful Mystery (set in a monastery) too. My next is book 10 which I meant to get out of the library before lockdown but forgot. Never mind. Glad you're now converted to the series, Tracy.

Katrina said...

I really love these books as much for the setting and the quirky characters as for the stories themselves.

TracyK said...

Cath, this set of books is definitely where the series picked up for me. I will have to wait a while to continue also.

TracyK said...

Katrina, as some of the characters have gotten more depth as the series continues, I have enjoyed it more. The Quebec City setting was interesting also, highlighting the relationship between the Francophones and the Anglophones.

col2910 said...

Tracy, I'm glad you enjoyed these. I suppose I ought to dig out the one I have sometime. I can't actually remember what one it is. Suffice to say, like Krueger I don't think this will be a series or author I shall commit to.

Neeru said...

Another author I ought to read but am wary of starting this series as I have heard that the later books really become tomes.

TracyK said...

Neeru, I have not seen any of her books that were over 450 pages. But I do understand not wanting to get involved in a series that has been going on for a long time. And this one especially benefits from reading in order.

Cleo @ Classical Carousel said...

Oh my, I have to start reading this series! They sound so good and it's nice to hear she's keeping up the good writing with each book!

TracyK said...

This series is definitely worth a try, Cleo. From what I hear the books get better and better.

Kay said...

Good to hear your thoughts on these Louise Penny books, Tracy. I suspect you know that she is my most favorite author - most of the time anyway. Bury Your Dead is among my favorites in the series, but I also love #4 - Rule Against Murder. And my most favorite so far is #9 - How the Light Gets In. You've got a lot of good stores to go! Enjoy!

TracyK said...

Kay, I think it is Rule Against Murder that hooked me on Louise Penny's series. I recently purchased How the Light Gets In from Daedalus (discounted) but will of course read #7 and #8 first. I do have one top favorite author (Rex Stout) but among authors it is hard to choose. I have a lot of favorite spy fiction authors, and several newer authors I really like, and the list could go on and on.

CLM said...

This is exactly what happened to me. I thought the first book was overhyped and I didn't care enough about Three Pines to read any more. Then last June my sister and I went to Quebec City and I wanted something Canadian to listen to driving north so I got the second book on CD and then was captivated by Armand Gamache. Like you, I thought the one about the hermit dragged on but Bury Your Dead was great in its delicate balancing of the story lines. I have now read The Beautiful Mysteries, How the Light Gets In, and The Long Way Home in the last ten days (loved the first two and found The Long Way Home only okay). I should take a break to make them last but I put #11 on reserve at the library today when I finished #10.

And reading about that bistro always makes me ravenous!

TracyK said...

Constance, I envy you getting to visit Quebec City. I recently read A Trick of the Light, and have The Beautiful Mysteries and How the Light Gets In, and will read those in the next few months. I am glad I "rediscovered" the series.