This was another great book by Louise Penny. I waffled on whether or not to give this one 4 or 5 stars, mainly based on the character development of I...moreThis was another great book by Louise Penny. I waffled on whether or not to give this one 4 or 5 stars, mainly based on the character development of Inspector Beauvoir. Even though his downward spiral is absolutely central to this book, I just couldn't buy into it 100%. His psychological turmoil and (in my mind) altered personality just didn't ring true to me. I guess drugs can really change a person drastically (I've known drug addicts, so I have some background with it), but just so much seemed greatly altered, more than what felt natural to me. I think I'll have to re-read the whole series to decide.
That said, his drug addiction and estrangement from Gamache, as well as from Annie, caused some pretty riveting drama. Normally, I am one who wants the focus of a mystery book to be the dang mystery, but this book is a rare exception to this rule. The focus of this book is on Gamache's relationship with Beauvoir and on his conflict with his corrupt superior, whom I'm just going to call what's-his-face, because I have blocked out his name from my brain. What's-his-name seems to be such a soulless, evil character, I think Penny does make him seem a little super-villain-like, but that is a minor complaint. The ending scene in the woods is total genius and screamed MOVIE to me. I'm wondering if it will be made into a movie someday.
What's going against that scenario is the murder mystery itself. It focuses on quintuplets--obviously inspired by the Dione quints--and the murder of the last living one. While I thought the mystery of their lives was extremely intriguing, the resolution of the mystery was a little ho-hum to me. I'd figured it out long before the end.
Overall, a book I'll probably re-read someday and would recommend as part of a series, but not as a stand-alone book.(less)
I am attempting to write my own young adult fantasy novel, so I wanted to see what was newer in the genre. I thought the first book of this series was...moreI am attempting to write my own young adult fantasy novel, so I wanted to see what was newer in the genre. I thought the first book of this series was surprisingly well-written, after having just read the first Percy Jackson novel and been disappointed by it. I liked the character development, and the way each central character was introduced separately into the narrative. I definitely have a soft spot for Conor, and I feel like that character is intentionally written that way. I think all of the main characters are pretty likable, even Rollan, despite being a little prickly and distrusting, and Meilin, despite coming off as a bit remote and higher-than-thou. Abike, we don't get to know quite as well, in my opinion, and I'm looking forward to seeing her interact with the other three in the next book.
The places explored, obviously based on real countries, were comfortably familiar, while also having their own unique traditions. The plot moved along at good pace, though I felt that the battle between the two competing factions snuck up on me, which made it feel a little rushed but also allowed for a mild surprise element, at least for me.
Once I finished the book, I was surprised to see that all of the subsequent books in the series are written by different authors. How weird! Why this choice? Money, I'm sure. Each novel is written by a very well-regarded YA author, so it is potentially bringing a much wider audience to the series than if it had just been penned by one author. It's kind of genius, but I'm a little disappointed that the writing style is going to be different from book to book. The upside to this format is that I can be introduced to many authors in this genre just through this series.
Overall, I was intrigued enough to read it in a relatively short period of time, and it was a very easy read. I would think this book is a little more oriented to middle grade kids (10-14) than older teenagers, but as a middle aged lady (sigh . . .), I was pretty entertained.(less)
This book is a novella written in very short chapters, and honestly, it's a little unsatisfying. I feel like this could have easily been fleshed out i...moreThis book is a novella written in very short chapters, and honestly, it's a little unsatisfying. I feel like this could have easily been fleshed out into a regular novel, but I'm not sure any alteration could make this into a great book. The mystery just isn't that riveting, and the resolution felt a bit Murder, She Wrote (a tv show that I love but also recognize would not make good written fiction). I enjoyed reading it, but I cannot recommend it unless you are a die-hard fan of the series.(less)
**spoiler alert** Well, as a huge fan of this series, I was definitely disappointed with this Gamache mystery. It takes place in a monastery rather th...more**spoiler alert** Well, as a huge fan of this series, I was definitely disappointed with this Gamache mystery. It takes place in a monastery rather than in the village of Three Pines, but this isn't the problem I have with it. I actually wish Penny had departed from the village's inhabitants sooner! Now, it's gotten to the point that I'm so invested in the characters from Three Pines that I did end up feeling let down that I wouldn't be finding out what was going on in their lives. (In particular, I'm left wondering what's going to happen with Peter and Clara!) If Perry had made a point of letting Gamache leave Three Pines every few books, I don't think I would feel as put out! That said, this had to happen, because Gamache is the true center of these books AND people need to stop dying around the people of Three Pines, less that town get a reputation like Cabot Cove!
Anyway, my real issue with this book was that the subplot seemed to take over the book. The Evil Superintendent is trying to sabotage Gamache by getting his righthand man and pseudo-son Beauvoir addicted to painkillers again. Ugh! It did not work with the mood of the monastery! It just totally rubbed me the wrong way. And in many ways, Beauvoir seemed to be acting out of character. Okay, I get it, drugs are bad and make people do bad things they wouldn't otherwise do, but it just didn't feel authentic to me. More than anything, the real Beauvoir would have seen through the Superintendent's transparent machinations and wanted to kick him to high heaven, drugs or no drugs.
The actual murder and it's resolution is barely worth mentioning. I found myself kind of bored by it in the end. What was most interesting to me was the infighting around the Gregorian chants, and even that wasn't all that interesting!
So this book was, by far, my least favorite of the series, and I was surprised to see that it had such a high rating on this site. It's still better than a lot of books out there though, and I look forward to the next book! Hopefully, it will meet the higher standards of her previous work!(less)
I read this because I have had a brain injury and was interested in hearing a story of recovery. It was interesting from this perspective, but the wri...moreI read this because I have had a brain injury and was interested in hearing a story of recovery. It was interesting from this perspective, but the writing was dry and even a little dull. It would be good to read if you knew the victim of a stroke or were recovering from one yourself.(less)
I listened to this as an audiobook and enjoyed it. Sara Vowell is pretty dang funny in her unabashedly nerdy way, and I love her work on This American...moreI listened to this as an audiobook and enjoyed it. Sara Vowell is pretty dang funny in her unabashedly nerdy way, and I love her work on This American Life. I also have a fondness for presidential history that comes from some unknown place, so this book was right up my alley. I would actually give this book 3 1/2 stars if I could. It's well-written, well-researched, and pretty entertaining, but nothing mind-blowing. I would definitely recommend it as an audiobook, since I love Sara Vowell's reading voice.(less)
**spoiler alert** This novel is a throw-back to the Gothic novels of the 19th century and to the very earliest mystery novels spun out of that traditi...more**spoiler alert** This novel is a throw-back to the Gothic novels of the 19th century and to the very earliest mystery novels spun out of that tradition, both in its structure and in its style. It makes many references to Jane Eyre and The Woman in White, and it makes a point of having a clear beginning, middle, and end, leaving as few loose ends as possible, just like its 19th century models.
There's something satisfying about this, but also something that rings a bit false to me as well. For example, time, in this novel, is elusive, and there is very little evidence as to when it takes place or when the flashbacks in time take place. From Isabel's dress when she goes to the garden party, you would think that that incident had to take place in the late teens or early 1920s at the earliest. Shortly after that time, the twins were born. Vita Winter is in her 70s when we meet her, so it would seem that this novel must take place in the 1990s, but the flashbacks FEEL so Victorian. In fact, even the present time FEELS Victorian. The protagonist Margaret, writes long hand and sends letters to people. She never encounters any technology, aside from the telephone and the car. There are no computers, no descriptions of modern life. Maybe this is because Margaret would prefer these things not to exist? There is a dark, haunted ambiance to the novel, but no decent sense of place, aside from the places where time hardly matters, and so there is no true sense of time. As I said, it just doesn't ring true.
Also, I was never really sold on Margaret's personal demons. She was born a conjoined twin, but her sister died after they were separated, shortly after their birth. The prose about this broken bond is just a bit purple and silly to me. Yes, this must be a great loss, especially when you have only a shell of a mother, but wow, does Margaret trip out over it! I mean, at the end, she has a full on hallucination! It just struck me as a bit much, a little over the top!
Lastly, the end was too neatly wrapped up! The implication that Margaret is probably going to end up with the doctor just came out of nowhere! I thought maybe she might have a little May-December romance with poor Aurelious, but I never thought she had even the vaguest amorous feelings for the doctor! It made no sense! I wish the author would have created more of a relationship between them rather than just play matchmaker at the end and throw the two together!
All of this said, the Gothic plot and layers of mystery are absolutely entrancing! (Hence the four-star rating after that litany of complaints.) I didn't want to stop reading, and I never fully understood what was going on until the author chose to reveal it. This novel was very well-structured and well-paced. I enjoyed it!(less)
**spoiler alert** For some of this book, I found myself enjoying the read, and at one point, I even thought, perhaps I have been too hard on Charlene...more**spoiler alert** For some of this book, I found myself enjoying the read, and at one point, I even thought, perhaps I have been too hard on Charlene Harris in previous reviews? Perhaps my snobbery has made me give her fewer stars than she deserves? By the end of the book, I wondered if I hadn't been too generous in my previous reviews! Why? Let me enumerate:
1). My big WTF?! moment came when Eric told Sookie she had the power to save him from his arranged marriage (ie. the cluvial door), and she was like, "Huh?" Are you kidding me? She'd been obsessed with the cluvial door for the whole book and now she forgets she has it? This makes no sense! Only a total moron would not get to what he was referring, even despite the fact that Sookie didn't know that he knew about it. Earlier in the book, Eric's future vampire bride (I forget her name right now) assessed Sookie, Eric's human wife, as intelligent. Was she this terribly wrong, or is Charlene Harris just a lazy writer? I think it's the latter. Everything went downhill from there, or maybe that was just the last straw for me.
2). As with the last book, Eric and Sookie's relationship is obviously stalling out. You can tell Harris has no interest in their romance, and she pretty much avoids having these two lovers hash it out or have any kind of meaningful conversation. It's boring. It's lame. It's not very enjoyable to read.
3). The whole ending just seemed like a jumbled mess. The plot was pretty thin. The interrogation of Claude, with Gift’s bra in his mouth, was just really silly and not very practical. There was really no reason for the others to gag Claude in the first place, since it seems like they wanted to hear what he had to say. Claude's motivations were so perplexing to me, so that even though I just finished the book today, I can't even remember what they were! Okay, I went back and scanned that section. It seriously makes no sense. So Claude was trying to split up Sookie and Eric so that Niall would sense the upset and come back, allowing Claude to attack him on human turf rather than in Faery. BUT NIALL DID COME BACK! Early in the book. And Claude just went peaceably with him! IT MAKES NO SENSE!
4). Why did Janellen kill Kim? She was originally hired by Claude, right? And then Janellen hired Kim to create tension between Sookie and Eric, right? So why did she kill her? The reason for it that Alcide gives when listing her crimes is seriously lame, “So that Kim wouldn’t tell the police who’d hired her.” Why in the heck would she tell the police anything? Why would the police be talking to her at all? If she wasn't dead, there was no reason for the police to be called. It literally makes no sense.
5). So Sookie doesn’t tell Sam the name of the object that saved him—the cluvial door—so why, oh why, does he mention its name at the end? This was clearly an oversight on Harris’ part. (Full disclosure: A friend pointed this out to me; I didn’t notice it myself. Even so, it exemplifies Harris' sloppiness.)
6). For the last 5 or 6 books, I have suspected that Sookie would end up with Sam, and this book seems to point in that direction, but frankly, this series easily could have been wrapped up at the end of this book. Instead, the end is going to be painfully drawn out, because it’s more profitable. I will definitely read the last book, out of curiosity, but I’m not expecting much! (less)
**spoiler alert** This book was another wonderful mystery from Louise Penny. It's probably my third favorite in the series, but I think it deserves al...more**spoiler alert** This book was another wonderful mystery from Louise Penny. It's probably my third favorite in the series, but I think it deserves all five stars. It's an emotionally rich and gripping novel, fraught with betrayal and suspense. My biggest complaint about it is that something disquieting happens at the end between two central characters that made me really grieve for one of them. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. I also want to note that I did not approve of Olivier's treatment of Gammache. He should recognize that the man may have made a mistake, but it was one that Olivier himself almost forced him into; moreover, if it weren't for Gammache's change of heart about his friend, Olivier would still be in prison. I also don't really think Olivier deserves forgiveness from his friends. I guess I'm less of a softy than Ruth!(less)
**spoiler alert** I love this series, but I still had to give this book 3 stars. Why? Because I felt cheated. At the end of the previous novel, one of...more**spoiler alert** I love this series, but I still had to give this book 3 stars. Why? Because I felt cheated. At the end of the previous novel, one of Gammache's friends, Olivier, is arrested for the murder, and I really believed he did it. When he was cleared in this novel, I was ticked off. It totally turned a literary convention of mystery novels on its head by overturning the conclusion of the previous novel, which is normally the kind of thing I like to see in my mysteries, BUT in doing this, it negated the powerful conclusion Gammache had to come to--that his friend was not only a liar, but also a murderer. I felt bamboozled. Also, in this novel, we see Gammache's guilt over arresting Olivier in the first place, which I understand him feeling, because he's a good person, but I think the guilt goes a bit far. Olivier DESERVED to get arrested. He lied so much and made so many bad choices, it was more Olivier's fault than Gammache's fault that he ended up being falsely accused and convicted of murder!
As to the other mystery in this book, I felt the murderer's motivations were pretty flimsy. I just didn't buy it! But I did enjoy the complexities of the case and its historical backdrop.
Lastly, as to the botched raid that resulted in so much death and injury to Gammache's team, I thought it was a really interesting element to introduce to this series. So often, the detectives seem static, as if they're not evolving or as if all that changes around them is just the cases they investigate. It also felt very real, what with all the terrorism going on in the world today. I was also heartened to feel the strength of Gammache's spirit in the wake of such terrible tragedy. He is such a great man and feels so real to me; it's almost as if I might be able to reach into his words and hug him.
This book surely made a better play, but I enjoyed reading it. The mystery was quite engaging, and I had no idea who the murderer was. A good, quick r...moreThis book surely made a better play, but I enjoyed reading it. The mystery was quite engaging, and I had no idea who the murderer was. A good, quick read!(less)
**spoiler alert** Louise Penny is amazing. Really. I can't say much about this book without giving a lot away, but I can say that the story was grippi...more**spoiler alert** Louise Penny is amazing. Really. I can't say much about this book without giving a lot away, but I can say that the story was gripping, well-written, intense, dark, and shocking. I totally did not know what to expect from one page to the next, and I definitely didn't guess the end. I think Penny really played against people's expectations of what a mystery novel is like, and it worked.
I loved all the details about art and antiques EXCEPT that she got at least one detail wrong. The "ancient" led crystal glasses could not have been THAT ancient. Cut led crystal (like the cut glass of the American Brilliant period, for example), wasn't invented until 1676, I think. So at most, the glassware could have been just a bit over 300 years old, which is old, but I would never call it ancient. But that's just being nitpicky! (Okay, this note is added later, but I started listening to the next book in the series and it also refers to these same glasses. It calls them thousands of years old. That's just completely IMPOSSIBLE! You would think Penny would have researched this better!)
My only other complaint is that some of the plot is far-fetched, but it's so wonderfully wrought and makes such sense in Penny's Three Pines universe that I didn't mind! Overall, I highly recommend this novel!
Above is my original review, but thinking about it more, I wanted to add a few comments, because I couldn't stop thinking about it. Spoilers are ahead!
So the entire novel, you are resisting the obvious suspect, because you don't want to believe that a beloved character in the series is the murderer. Generally speaking, beloved characters aren't the murderers in detective fiction, with exceptions of course. In the end, when it's revealed that Olivier did it and is a greedy lying selfish person, the Chief Inspector still calls him his friend and says he should just be convicted for manslaughter. I disagree! Strongly! It seems to me that this murder had to have been thought out, and that in combination with how he manipulated his victim prior to his death and the fact that he moved the body in an attempt to ruin another man's business makes him about the worst kind of criminal I could imagine! He needs the book thrown at him!
Also, why the heck didn't the Gamache arrest both Olivier and Marc Gilbert for moving the body? Okay, so since Olivier was the murderer, there's no need to charge him with that crime, but Marc Gilbert at the very least should have been charged with tampering with evidence and disrupting the scene of a crime. That really bugged me!(less)