Still Life is a surprising first novel by Louise Penny. The characterization of the main characters that I loved in The Beautiful Mystery is already present in the beginning of their novel life. Both Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir have their detection preferences in this early work, but their relationship is not as defined as it becomes later. I don’t mean this as a criticism, but rather as a plus, since Penny has taken the time to let the relationship occur naturally. Instead of telling the reader that the two are a great pair, she’s let us find out by watching their interactions over time.
In this novel, a private artist has been shot dead by a arrow after having her first public showing of her art work is announced. Chief Inspector is sure that her art work is tied to her death, but he and Jean-Guy Beauvoir must immerse themselves into the small town life to find the motivation of the murder.
Louise Penny writes all the side characters as well as Gamacge and Beauvoir; and once again takes us into a small world where outsiders are not usually welcome.
Louise Penny keeps the reader guessing in this small town mystery, but keeps the tone light and humorous with lessons for those affected by the murder as well as those working with Gamache. He is a kind leader and does not deal well with an unkind addition to his team. This was another great read!
The Beautiful Mystery is not the first novel by Louise Penny, but its the first I’ve read. I was immediately blown away by the relationship between the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his partner Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Theirs is a paternal relationship with the elder Gamache filling a father role as well as boss and mentor. One is thoughtful while the other is all about action.
The two are an interesting pair as they enter the closed monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, a Catholic order so reclusive they were lost to the Vatican for hundreds of years. Penny details the imaginary beauty of this silent monastery as well as the ethereal quality of the music. Its easy to get lost with all the interesting characters that pop up in the investigation of a murdered monk as well as the love of the ancient chants that the order sings in prayer to God.
This closed murder investigation has a twist when a Vatican monk who works in the office formally known as the Inquisittion shows up suddenly without prior knowledge of the dead monk. Is there a Catholic conspiracy or a plain old murder here? Louise Penny delivers a beautifully told story that has the reader handing on every word yet the motive of the murderer remains hidden until the end of the novel. Throughout the story the main detectives delighted me with their personal journeys and obvious affection for each other.
This was another recommendation from my aunt-in-law and this author is sure to become one of my favorites.
Read May 2015
Echo Park is another of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels. This time, Bosch is back in the police department in their Open-Unsolved Unit. Bosch reviews a case that he worked back in 1993 when a young woman named Marie Gesto went missing. Back then Bosch settled on a suspect but could never find evidence. Over the years, the suspect, who had no evidence against him, felt so harassed by Bosch that he was able to take out a restraining order against Bosch so that he could not be interviewed without his lawyer present.
Today (2006), an arrested serial killer has claimed that he committed the Gesto murder and as part of a plea arrangement, he would lead the detectives to the body. As always, Bosch is emotionally invested in this case and tags along with the other investigations and district attorneys to try to close this case. Of course, nothing turns out to go smoothly and soon Bosch determines that there is much more to the serial killer than the Gesto murder. While trying to uncover the truth about the 13 year old case, he uncovers a conspiracy involving murderers, politicians, and policemen.
A great, easy read with many twists and turns.
Read May 2015.
In Never Coming Back Tim Weaver’s character David Raker isolates himself in his father’s former cottage right by the sea in Devon. Raker retired from private investigations after the last one ended with him almost dead. In this small village, a young boy found a dead body washed ashore. Former DCI Healy, Raker’s housemate and friend, tries to assist the local police but is pushed out of the investigation.
After the body is found, Raker’s former love seeks him out to help her find her missing sister. Emily Kane arrived at her sister’s house months ago and the family was just gone. The house looked like someone was home: food on the stove, table set, dog food in the bowl, wallets and cell phones still there, but no one was home. Even months later, no information about the family’s whereabouts turned up.
While trying to dig up information on this dead end case, Raker is brought back into a world that he hoped to leave behind. The characters travel from the UK to LA and Vegas in trying to piece together what happened to this family. All the stories and characters weaving in and out to try to find a family of ordinary people who accidentally got mixed up in something horrific. The settings are beautifully described whether its an ancient ruin of a city wiped away by a storm or the newness of the Vegas strip.
I enjoyed reading this novel and the different places that Weaver took the characters. There were so many plot points that came together to find the outcome for the missing family. Overall a very well done novel.
Read May 2015
In The Stonecutter, Camilla Lackberg brings back Patrik Hedstrom and Erika Falck who have just had a daughter together. Erika deals with her new post partum life as best she can and befriends another mother. Unfortunately, it is her new friend’s daughter whose body is found in a fisherman’s net. As Patrik and Erika deal with their new parenthood and how emotional another child’s death can be, it is even more heart breaking when the post mortem reveals that the water in Sara’s lungs came from a bathtub.
Lackberg writes multiple sub-plots that run throughout the novel. The stonecutter, Anders, falls for the boss’s daughter Agnes over 80 years ago and tumultuous love affair has repercussions that Lackberg skillfully and slowly reveal to the reader. Patrik’s boss discover’s his paternal, although still very self centered, side when an offspring from a long forgotten affair turns up. Erika’s sister reunites with her horrifically abusive husband in hopes of saving the children. All the stories are united by parenthood and how much of what the adults are doing is for the children’s benefit. Each parent, in their own way, tries to make their children feel their love, sometimes in very disturbing and unhealthy ways.
Camilla Lackberg’s novels are a thrill to read and The Stonecutter was no exception. All the story lines and time periods fit together and make the novel flow. She is able to deal with very serious subjects of abuse, murder, greed while still keeping the main characters balanced and loving.
Read May 2015
Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins is told with time jumps from 1962 to present day, where the past affects the future in all the characters. Just south of Cinque Terre in 1962, a young movie star comes ashore in a remote village which is only accessible by boat. The local owner of the hotel, already obsessing about turning his village into the next place for Americans to escape, watches over his guest with his own future in mind. Meanwhile, a has-been movie producer in present day Hollywood has a surprise visitor from his past.
Jess Walter’s introduces all his characters with purpose and they all tie the story together. This includes the enigmatic Elizabeth Taylor, who never appears in the novel, but is referenced by all the characters because in 1962, when half the book takes place, a young Liz is filming Cleopatra in Rome, not far from the picturesque Italian village.
Having the plot jump back and forth can be jarring to a reader, but Walters keeps everything smooth in his telling. He also keeps everyone guessing as to what secrets have been covered up for 50 years and who will be most impacted by their revelation.
This was a beautiful story of people living their lives with all the good and bad out for the reader to see. Jess Walter writes compassionately about all his characters, even in their selfish awfulness.
Read April 2015