Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Gamache Series #2) CC de Poitiers was a miserable woman who made everyone around her miserable: her husband, her child, her lover, and just about anyone who happened to cross her path. Her philosophy in life was not to show emotion, though she herself showed a lot of emotion. Her favorite seemed to be anger. When she dies, electrocuted while watching a curling match on a frozen pond no less, no one is particularly upset. Still, Inspector Armand Gamache must discover her murderer and bring him or her to justice even if some might think the world is better off with CC de Poitiers. He is also tasked with solving the murder of a homeless woman as part of his annual ritual of swapping cold cases with a colleague in another city. No worries, Inspector Gamache is up for the job.

A Fatal Grace is the second book in Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache mystery series, a series I am very much enjoying. In so many police procedurals (televised and written) the police are characterized as skirting close to the line between right and wrong, legal and illegal, and often crossing that line. Viewers and readers are supposed to root for the police anyway because anything they do is all in the name of crime solving. Inspector Gamache is different. He is a cop with an ethical code. He tries to avoid making assumptions about people and jumping to conclusions. He apologizes when he is wrong. He understands that part of his job as the lead detective is to train and mentor younger detectives. He realizes that the people he comes into contact with, whether a suspect, victim, witness, or bystander are just that, people, capable of both good and bad and everything in between. This ethical code makes Inspector Gamache an officer with an impressive solve rate. It has also made him unpopular among some of his colleagues.

I quite enjoyed this. This mystery itself was interesting, though not particularly difficult to solve. (I figured it out about half way through.) Aside from liking a book about an ethical police officer, I really like the town of Three Pines that Penny has created. It reads like a sort of artist colony with quirky residents full of interesting stories. My one complaint is that Gamache's team are not so well drawn or interesting. Hopefully they will be fleshed out more in future books.

I am intrigued by the dynamic between the Anglo and Franco factions of Quebec as portrayed in this series. The casual, I don't know if racism is the right word, between them is no doubt meant to be funny. Sometimes it is, but is also rather jarring. In both this and the previous book, a character will remark how all Anglos/Francos are one thing or another, as if these are people they have never encountered before. I can kind of understand why people who live in Quebec might have stereotypes about people from one of other Canada's provinces and vice versa, but it is interesting that people living in the same province seem so foreign to one another.

Halfway through this book I went out and bought the next two books in this series. Aside from the current homicide investigation, there was a hint of something bigger to come. It is known from the prior book in the series that Gamache's career has stalled, despite how good he is at his job, because he pissed someone off higher up the food chain. In this book we find out a little more about the case that put a damper on his career. More importantly, it appears that simply stalling his career might not be enough for some people. Can't wait to see what happens next.

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