Louse Penny writes traditional but modern detective story that avoids against the latest trends in modern crime fiction. No blood, gore, forensics, post-mortems or shock tactics, just good writing, well developed characters, evocative settings, a well thought out plots and bigger themes than just “whodunit”.
This, her fourth novel following Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, more than lives up to the high expectations set by it’s three predecessors.
Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie have a long-standing tradition of visiting Manoir Bellechasse, a small hotel in a remote country location, each year to mark their wedding anniversary.
They find that all of rooms, save theirs, are occupied or reserved by members of the same family. Irene Finney, together with the four grown-up children of her first marriage and her second husband, has come for a special occasion – a memorial to her late first husband is to be unveiled.
It soon becomes clear that the family member are powerful, competitive, used to getting their own way and unconcerned with other’s feelings or viewpoints. And one member of the family is known to Gamache, as a resident of Three Pines where the first three books in the series were set.
Old secrets and rivalries resurface, and the morning after the ceremony, a body is found. One family member lies dead at the foot of the memorial. And so Gamache finds himself in the middle of a murder enquiry. The hotel is full of possible, both family members and staff, and it is unclear just how the murder was committed.
Louise Penny has the gift of creating wonderful characters with apparent ease. The family members, the hotel staff and the police team are all beautifully drawn and each character is necessary to the plot. The police team, each with their own strengths and perspectives, are particularly well portrayed.
Relationships are wonderfully portrayed too – from the strong bond between Gamache and his wife to the tensions within the troubled family.
As always with Louise Penny, there is more to this book than the crime and the investigation. Many themes are explored.
One concerns Gamache’s late father. Early in the book Gamache is, uncharacteristically, unhappy at the possibility of a possible grandson bearing his father’s name. Later it becomes clear that Gamache senior was a public figure as Irene Finney’s family pass remarks. Ultimately though, in a wonderful conversation it is made clear that, far from being a coward, Gamache senior was a man brave enough to admit that he had made mistakes.
The different elements are well balanced and the book as a whole is cleverly plotted and beautifully written. The clues that you need to solve the mystery are all there, but not to obvious. The pace is a little slow but with such well-drawn characters and relationships being uncovered and so much more than the mystery to follow that really works.