(Image from Barnes & Noble)
(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for A Fatal Grace, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from the first Armand Gamache mystery, Still Life. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
A year after Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûcreté du Québec, first comes to tiny, idyllic Three Pines, he returns to investigate a second murder. This time, it's domestic goddess wannabe Cecilia "CC" de Poitiers whose life has come to an unfortunate end. Not that anyone in Three Pines will be mourning her demise. Cold and cruel, the woman had few fans in the small town. Still, the case is perplexing, mostly because of the very public way in which CC died. Electrocuted at a town curling match, she was surrounded by people—none of whom have the faintest idea what happened. Anyone could have killed her; suspects and motives abound. But, who actually did the deed? How? And why?
Undaunted by the puzzling mystery he's taxed with solving, Gamache is delighted to be back in Three Pines. The village feels like home, its residents like friends. The chief inspector's team, which includes Gamache's loyal right-hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvoir; the young, but capable Isabelle Lacoste; proud, prickly Yvette Nichol; and over-eager local agent Robert Lemieux; is not quite as enthusiastic. Learning to work together despite clashing personalities, hidden agendas, and flagrant prejudices might be the team's biggest challenge. Still, Gamache is determined to bring them together, using their combined skills to help him catch a killer.
When a homeless woman in Quebec is murdered right before Christmas, Gamache is shocked to find the crime is connected to CC's death. As his case becomes more and more complicated, the chief inspector must dig deeper and deeper to find out what really happened to CC de Poitiers. Deception barrages him from all directions—even from within his own team—making the case ever more baffling. Will the complications be enough to ruin Gamache's almost perfect solve record? Or will he find CC's murderer before anyone else ends up dead?
Like our hero, I found myself eager to return to Three Pines, a charming place I'd come to love from reading Still Life, the debut novel in Louise Penny's appealing Armand Gamache series. The second installment, A Fatal Grace, brought the setting back to vivid, gratifying life. As much as I love the backdrop of these books, though, it's the characters that keep me coming back to Penny's books. With their individual quirks, her warm-hearted cast is always intriguing, always entertaining. The chief inspector provides a breath of fresh air with his "old world charm ... a courtesy and manner that spoke of a time past" (54) that makes him stand out from the usual leads in crime fiction. A Fatal Grace also boasts a twisty plot that kept me unsure of the killer's identity until the very end of the novel. All these things combined made this second Gamache book as enjoyable as the first. As Three Pines is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to visit, you better believe I'll be back for more and more and more ... I just can't get enough of this enthralling series.
(Readalikes: Other books in the Armand Gamache series, including Still Life; The Cruellest Month; The Murder Stone; The Brutal Telling; Bury Your Dead; The Hangman; A Trick of the Light; The Beautiful Mystery; How the Light Gets In; The Long Way Home; and The Nature of the Beast)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for strong language, violence, and sexual innuendo
To the FTC, with love: Another library