Monday, 16 March 2015

Dead Cold

Author: Louise Penny
Genre: Mystery, Canadian
Alternate Title in US: A Fatal Grace
Type: Hardcover
Source: Local Public Library
Series: #2 in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series
Publisher: Headline Publishing
First Published: 2006
First Line: "Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have have bought her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift."

Book Description from GoodReads:  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 Québec, 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:  As a proud Canadian I'm always on the lookout for 'new to me' Canadian fiction.  I had had a lot of people suggest this series to me so I finally read the first book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, Still Life, about a year ago.  I was pleased to see a book set in Canada with a truly small town Canadian feel to its characters and setting.  

While I enjoyed Still Life quite a bit, this book is even better.  The quirky and memorable cast of characters from Three Pines were back in this sequel that again has a uniquely Canadian feel complete with a small curling bonspiel, beautiful snowy setting and our requisite Canadian humour.  Throughout the book there are snippets of French thrown in and anyone who took French in school should easily be able to read them but even without lessons it doesn't interfere with understanding the story line.  I think it just brings a uniquely Quebecois feel to the characters.  For those who struggle with the French aspects, Penny has a website where she gives the correct pronunciations of the French phrases/words to help her more detailed readers understand every word.

One of the main differences that I found between Still Life and A Fatal Grace is that I found the mystery this time around much more compelling.  A big reason for this is that I got to know the victim better before the murder.  With the murder in Still Life we didn't really get to know the victim but in this book we see how truly horrid CC's personality was with her family and pretty much everyone she came into contact with.  Seeing her 'sparkling personality' up front helped me to understand why someone would want to harm her.  It never hurts to have the victim as someone who is so hated by pretty much everyone around her since it makes for many suspects.  

This book also had more of a CSI feel to it regarding how the victim could have been killed.  I liked how I immediately got drawn into that part of the story as I tried to figure out the 'how dunnit' as well as figure out who could have set the wheels of murder in motion.

One of the unique aspects of this series are the characters so I was thrilled to see that most of the townspeople were included in Dead Cold.  I adore Ruth and her curmudgeonly attitude and her sarcastic bantering back and forth with her Three Pines neighbours.  Gamache himself continues to be very strong and an extremely unique and well-rounded character.  I also enjoyed seeing some of Gamache's team back, specifically one of the more troublesome members of his team.  

I do have some concerns regarding how this wee town can handle so many murders and still be realistic.  Let's just say that if I lived there I'd probably pack up and move.  But I was pleased to see the addition of another story line surrounding Gamache and his suspicions regarding some people at the Surete.  It may help bring a breath of fresh air into the series but doesn't leave the reader with the dreaded cliff hanger either.  I'm eager to see how that story runs its course and hopefully it will give the reader a better look into Gamache's life. 

In the end, Louise Penny has written an intelligent, often humourous and well written mystery series with truly memorable, quirky characters.  It has a lot of heart and I'm excited to get back to Three Pines and get immersed in their issues once again.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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