Book Review: A Fatal Grace

EFA28756-F551-4215-A7CC-7E08CED6222ETitle: A Fatal Grace
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: February 15, 2011

From Minotaur: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.
No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.
When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?
With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.

My Review: I fell in love with the remote village of Three Pines during Still Life, Louise Penny’s first novel in the Inspector Gamache Series and I’m so glad to be back in this second instalment, A Fatal Grace. Three pines is a charming community full of the most eccentric characters you will meet. For all their quirks they are a warm and loyal bunch. And what’s not to love about Inspector Gamache? His stoicism, compassion, and courage command your respect and his endearing wife, Reine-Marie are the perfect pair – a lovely couple you wish you knew in real life.

Inspector Gamache and his team return to Three Pines investigating the peculiar murder of unlikable CC de Poitiers. An impossibly unpleasant woman who intimidated her husband and belittled her obese daughter, CC was electrocuted on a frozen pond in front of the townspeople but no one noticed because they were too busy watching the Christmas curling tournament.

Penny has a penchant for keeping me guessing to the end and coming back for more.  Another superbly written gentle mystery, this series grows by leaps and bounds with every new instalment.

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Book Review: The Power of the Dog

9781400096930Title: The Power of the Dog
Author: Don Winslow
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: May 1, 2005

From Knopf: The prequel to The Cartel, and set about 10 years earlier, The Power of the Dog introduces a brilliant cast of characters. Art Keller is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and incorruptible Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hell’s kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hit man. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug Federación. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you’ve never seen it.

My Review: The Power of the Dog spans three decades, a handful of government agencies and several borders to give you powerful insight into the Mexican drug Federación and War on Drugs. Although the book is fiction the narrative is fact-based, therefore gripping and all-consuming. Any American who has followed politics and the news the past 30 years will find this book evocative.

The Power of the Dog’s plot is complex and the characters equally elaborate, a testament to Winslow’s years of research enabling him to compose this narcos-charged masterpiece.  This story is not for the faint of heart. It’s appalling, graphic, violent and spares no detail. But that’s how the Federación operates. Pay close attention because the cast is extensive and their betrayal unrestrained.

I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Ray Porter.  His narration is brilliant – the pronunciation, intonation, inflection, and delivery were on the money. I highly recommend giving this one a listen if you can stomach the details and keep the characters straight. Winslow is releasing the third book, currently untitled, in 2018 and I will be reading it!

Book Review: The Cruelest Month

F26B85A9-DB7B-4826-BC2B-2327EC215334Title: The Cruelest Month, Inspector Gamache Book 3
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur
Publication Date: March 4, 2008
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Minotaur: Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.
It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?
Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

My Review: The Inspector Gamache Series gets better with each book and I am 100- percent invested in this series and all the charm, dysfunction and mystery Three Pines imparts. Book 3, THE CRUELEST MONTH, takes us back to Three Pines at Easter to a ‘cleansing’ of the Hadley House, but the seance goes wrong when one of the troupe dies.

Chief Inspector Gamache and crew return to Three Pines to solve the ‘whodunnit’ mystery with all the flair rendered, after all he is head of Sûreté du Québec. I am smitten with Gamache’s procedure for solving his cases; he is patient, inquisitive and listens to everyone. But moreover I admire his mantra of wisdom he demands of his subordinates: I don’t know, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I need help.

What I liked:

  • I listened to the audiobook narrated by Ralph Cosham and cannot praise his narration enough!
  • Inspector Gamache’s gentle heroism.
  • The delicacies – baguettes and cheese boards.
  • Ruth Zardo – her abrasiveness is part of her charm.

What I didn’t like:

  • The seance was my least favourite part.

Overall:
I cannot recommend this series enough. A modern day version of Agatha Christie in a French-Canadian setting, you will fall in love with Inspector Gamache!

Book Review: Everywhere That Mary Went

B663143D-86FE-475A-A284-94067AA5A2FETitle: Everywhere That Mary Went
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: November 1, 1993
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT is Book 1 of the Rosato & Associates series. Mary DiNunzio is a lawyer at prestigious Stalling & Webb in Philadelphia. Her husband is killed in a freak accident and Mary copes by immersing herself in work and focusing on making partner. Then her secretary winds up dead. Coincidence? And someone is crank calling her every day when she gets to work and again when she gets home. These disturbing events the past year start to unhinge Mary and when she comes face to face with her stalker and how far he will go to have Mary she puts up the fight of her life.

What I liked:

  • Strong central female character
  • Legal thriller
  • Series
  • Murderous plot

What I didn’t like:

  • Slow plot in some spots, felt a bit dragged out
  • A little far fetched that Mary didn’t put the pieces together sooner

Overall: A good beginning to a new to me series. Scottoline’s plots are not edge of your seat type but what I call ‘gentle suspense’. Her writing is engaging and intelligent.

Book Review: Most Wanted

9B7895B8-7FC3-47E6-8F39-8A74B86A2727Title: Most Wanted
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: September 12, 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From St. Martin’s: Christine Nilsson and her husband, Marcus, are desperate for a baby. Unable to conceive, they find themselves facing a difficult choice they had never anticipated. After many appointments with specialists, endless research, and countless conversations, they make the decision to use a donor.

Two months pass, and Christine is happily pregnant. But one day, she is shocked to see a young blond man on the TV being arrested for a series of brutal murders—and the blond man bears an undeniable and uncanny resemblance to her donor.

Delving deeper to uncover the truth, Christine must confront a terrifying reality and face her worst fears. Riveting and fast-paced, with the depth of emotionality that has garnered Lisa Scottoline legions of fans, Most Wanted poses an ethical and moral dilemma: What would you do if the biological father of your unborn child was a killer?

My Review: This is my first Lisa Scottoline book and it won’t be my last! The premise of MOST WANTED is one of the freakiest I’ve ever read – a loving couple uses a donor to become pregnant and learns he may be a serial killer. The laws protecting donors’ identity prevent Christine and Marcus from learning whether the man in custody is their donor, number 3319, Zachary Jeffcoat.

What would you do if you learned the child you are carrying has a fifty percent chance of harbouring disturbing mental traits? Would you love your child any less or feel differently than if they were born with a physical disability? These are the questions Christine and Marcus ask themselves. And their answers to these questions create a rift between them sending Christine down a dangerous path behind Marcusses back. She decides to go straight to the source and visit Zachary Jeffcoat in maximum security prison.

Jeffcoat doesn’t seem like a serial killer – he’s handsome, charming and smart and professes his innocence. Christine wants to believe this man, the biological father of her baby is innocent but the evidence is stacked against him. When another murder unfolds Christine digs deeper getting mixed up in a multilayer plot with twists and turns. Can she save her marriage and uncover the real serial killer?

This is a fast-paced thriller facing moral and ethical delimmas that will keep you turning the pages, or in my case listening every spare moment.

Book Review: The Stolen Marriage

7A8A527B-F660-4369-817E-3BF251CFC265Title: The Stolen Marriage
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From St. Martin’s Press: In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?

I won a copy of this arc in a giveaway sponsored by Goodreads and St. Martin’s Press. All opinions are my own.

My Review: THE STOLEN MARRIAGE took me completely and utterly by surprise in a very good way. To be upfront I didn’t know anything about this book and thought I was going into a thriller / suspense story. Instead I was fully engrossed in rich history, intrigue and mystery flanked by elaborate characters and complex topics significant to World War II and southern living.

Tess and Vincent grew up as neighbors in Little Italy, Baltimore, Maryland and always knew they would marry. Engaged and planning their wedding, Vincent was busy carving out his medical career while Tess finished up her nursing studies. A weekend away with her girlfriend lands Tess inebriated, in bed with another man and pregnant. Scared, ashamed and her future with Vincent derailed, Tess sets off to seek financial support from Henry but Henry proposes marriage to provide a family for his unborn child.

Tess never imagined the life she would sign onto upon accepting Henry’s proposal. Moving to a small town in the south where she is seen as trapping Henry, Tess lives under the watchful eyes of Ruth and Lucy, Henry’s mother and sister. She’s not welcomed into their lives nor accepted and she’s in a loveless marriage with a man who isn’t attracted to her.

What lies ahead are deception, secrets, compassion, morality and surprising plot twists. While this isn’t a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat, it is poignant and captivating and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Book Review: Still Life

IMG_0179Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 17, 2006
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Minotaur: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

My Review: I fell in love with the quaint and charming Québécois village of Three Pines, the picturesque setting of STILL LIFE. Three Pines is the kind of place you stumble upon accidentally and never want to leave. It’s an artistic community filled with eccentric folks who have known each other their whole lives and no one locks their doors at night and everyone counts on one another.

This tiny community is rocked to its core when longtime resident Jane Neal turns up dead Thanksgiving morning murdered. The townspeople want to believe Jane’s death is a hunting accident but according to Gamache this is no accident and he must confront the killer before another resident of Three Pines suffers a similar fate.

What you won’t get from STILL LIFE is a mystery leaving you on the edge of your seat. Penny pens a literary and sophisticated mystery with a narrative that sucks you into Three Pines quirkiness. And Inspector Gamache is every bit gallant, a highly respected member of the Surete du Quebec, a noble man who is amorous of his wife Reine-Marie.

STILL LIFE is the beautiful start to a series that I look forward to continuing and further getting to know the idiosyncracies of Three Pines!