Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

This is the sixth in the Chief Inspector Gamache series but it’s the first I’ve read. I began with Bury Your Dead because the reviews were so great (The American Library Association named it the best mystery of 2010.) but now I wish I’d started with, Still Life, the first in the series as I plan to read them all. The series and the quality of the writing remind me of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series and they've won many of the same awards.

In addition to a rip-roaring mystery and great characters, this tale makes the city of Quebec a character and has me pining to visit there this winter (and I don’t ever pine to visit a northern city in the winter).  Penny depicts the unique history and beauty of the old walled city so beautifully that I can easily imagine myself sipping hot chocolate and eating croissants after a quick stroll.

Gamache is visiting his mentor in Quebec City to recover from an investigation that had dreadful consequences that are haunting him.  He visits the English Literary and Historical Society where a crazed historian goes in search of the remains of Samuel de Champlain, Quebec’s founder.  When a body is found in the Society’s basement the wide divide between the French and the English threatens to ignite the separatists. Meanwhile Gamache sends an aide to the village of Three Pines to take a second look at the circumstances behind a hermit’s murder. The book has three distinct story lines, the two murders and Gamache’s lament over his last case and Penny skillfully intertwines them to make the mystery a complex emotional ride.

Every character in this novel seems to leap from the page and bring to life the smoldering tensions in the city and in the seemingly peaceful village.  The book will also educate readers about the feelings behind the separatist movement in Quebec and on the history of Quebec’s founding.

Penny says her books are inspired by two lines from a W.H. Auden poem: Goodness existed, that was the new knowledge/his terror had to blow itself quite out to let him see it.  It’s rare that a novel shows us the inner terror that the characters suffer while reinforcing that goodness exists.  Inspector Armand Gamache fights terror both within himself and within Quebec and he does it by searching for the goodness that exists

Summing it Up:  Read this to fall in love with the characters, setting and language in this page-turning mystery.  Start with Bury Your Dead or with Still Life, the first in the series.  

Rating: 5 stars    Category: Fiction, Mysteries and Thrillers, Super Nutrition, Book Club

Publication date: September 28, 2010

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