How was your weekend? Did you spend it reading, playing, exercising, or working?
I spent a lot of time online tracking Hurricane Irma, worrying about friends and relatives in Florida. I also read stories about thefts of recovery supplies in Texas, and looting in Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando. Who does that? I hope there’s a special a**hole penalty in the sentencing process for the people they catch.
Last week I wrote about some books that recently made me cry. This first one will be no surprise if you’ve followed this blog or heard me in interviews. Every August I pre-order Louise Penny’s latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel and read it immediately when it comes out (or delay it as a reward for accomplishing some goal). And every time I read one of her books, I cry at some point. Oh, not big, bawling tears. I honestly don’t have that many tears in me anymore–some combination of tear gland death (long story) and occasional antidepressants. But I still have all the feelings, and the ability to tear up at least a bit.
This year’s book is Glass Houses. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his lady love/wife, Reine-Marie, have moved permanently to the tucked-away Quebec village of Three Pines. Reine-Marie is retired, and Armand has recently come out of a brief retirement to help rebuild the Sûreté du Québec (the national police force), after he nearly sacrificed his career and his own life to rid it of endemic corruption. Why would I start with details like this? Glass Houses is, indeed, a savvy mystery novel with many tense thriller moments along the way. But it’s also of a piece with Penny’s long-running series: Glass Houses is the 13th Chief Inspector Gamache novel.
A synopsis: Armand and Reine-Marie, and all the other familiar characters from the village are in residence during a chilly November. But there are other visitors at Gabri and Olivier’s B and B: Four friends who annually celebrate their college friendship in Three Pines. One of them is a high-ranking Quebec official. After a post-Halloween costume party, one of the mysterious guests doesn’t remove their black, faceless costume, but goes to stand for a couple of days on the village green–silent and unmoving–unnerving the villagers. They all turn to Gamache for answers, but he can’t legally do anything. When one of the four B and B guests is discovered murdered in the church’s root cellar, the village is stunned, but also relieved that the dark figure is gone as well. Penny interweaves the solving of the murder that winter with the subsequent trial that takes place later that year, in the sweltering summer. The murder is, to say the least, complicated. And Gamache’s investigation leads him to face some hard truths about how much or how little crime and punishment in Quebec has really changed since he took over as head of the Sûreté. It’s a good story.
At this point in my reading of the Gamache books, I don’t read so much for the story as I do to learn what’s going on with the characters. They’ve become like family to me–a family that’s occasionally dysfunctional, but then again, whose isn’t?
I get emotional when something affecting happens to them. I’m sad when Reine-Marie worries about her husband because I know he really is in danger, or even is already injured. I get teary when Jean-Guy holds his baby son, Honoré, tighter because he reflects deeply on how tenuous our bonds to one another are. I cry fat tears when one of the characters is shot and may not survive (this is not really a spoiler–it is a crime novel after all). My tears are not unpredictable. The emotions Penny’s characters express feel very, very real. I don’t run from the emotion in the Gamache books because Penny has earned my trust and done her job very, very well.
If you haven’t read any of Penny’s books, then you may not want to start with Glass Houses. Well, you could read it for the story of the mystery–It definitely works as a standalone. But there’s a lot of important history that weaves together Gamache, his family, and co-workers with the villagers of Three Pines. I wouldn’t want you to miss out.
I suggest you pick up a copy. And if it calls for you from the shelf, then answer. Read it, and then go back and start at the beginning with Still Life. You won’t regret it.
Here’s a link to my last Louise Penny post. Enjoy!