Many readers have fallen in love with Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books, especially Bury Your Dead
, and it’s easy to see why. Her descriptions of place are gentle and thorough, lifting every cover and opening every cupboard of a setting until we feel that we’re strolling down the streets of Old Quebec or pushing our way through the waist-high snow of a Canadian village.
Her characters are also the beneficiaries of this intelligent and pleasant cataloging. We’re treated to wonderful physical descriptions of the important personas, then are given a trip inside their heads and hearts as they move through her drama. The intimate 3rd person narration gives one the sensation of riding along on the shoulders of the characters like an invisible eye.
Unfortunately, the same pre-occupation with detail and intricacy doesn’t always work well with plots and it’s here that Penny loses me. There’s a fine mystery series convention, the standard “A” and “B” story lines (A being the crisis of the moment, B being the protagonist’s ongoing life issues), that’s worked well for thousands of mystery writers and their books. Bury Your Dead
, however, is a riot of plot lines, an attempt to weave together four separate mysteries, only two of which have even a passing connection to each other.
That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air. A and B are fine; when you toss in a C and a D, you better be prepared to wrap it up well. Unfortunately, I think Penny bit off more than she could chew, with the result that I was left feeling that none of the stories were given their due or ended particularly well. (view spoiler)[Add to that the unbelievable coincidence of a son killing a father without recognizing him and numerous traits of minor characters that are difficult to swallow. (hide spoiler)]
Had Penny sacrificed the artificial complexity of the two extraneous mysteries and concentrated instead on writing a simple, yet compelling plot, we’d have a book worthy of all the accolades it received. As it is, we’re left with a beautiful mess filled with warm descriptions and lovable characters that ultimately falls short as a satisfying novel.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>