Sunday, October 16, 2016

Reviewing: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

Back in September I reviewed Louise Penny's first Inspector Gamache novel and made plans to review her latest one. But wait Louise Penny writes faster then I can blog, it appears. A Great Reckoning is newly released but today I will review The Nature of the Beast.

Buy this book

(I bought my copy during The Nature of the Beast's book launch in Vancouver, BC)

Published by Minotaur Books 
an imprint of St. Martin's Publishing Group
Published in 2015
Book blurb:  Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.
But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.
And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an odd crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.
And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.
Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself has played a terrible part in what happens next.

I took notes as I read (I've chosen not to include spoilers.)... 

Chapter 1

I finish this chapter in a state of confusion. Who is he? Where is he? The story is hidden from me and I wonder why.

Chapter 2

This chapter starts with dialogue. Description is sparse. The reader is given little information about the setting. The story trickles like a tap turned low. The chapter is packed with characters--all coming at me, at once. Where do I look? Who do I listen to?
Reine-Marie 'saw...a pretty, but dull backwater. While [Armand] saw a shore. A place where the shipwrecked could finally rest.' (p. 89)
Chapter 3

Clara:  ' "It's as though I've never painted in my life. Oh, God, suppose I can't?" ' (p. 26)

How may artists have wondered, mumbled or uttered this sentence? I know I have.

Chapter 4

Reine-Marie:  ' "Do you think a work should be judged by its creator? Or should it stand on its own?" ' (p. 30)
Armand:  ' "The creator and the created are one." ' (p. 31)

Leanne:  Are the criminally insane the only one who twist reality and spread hatred through words? Should there be controls on who can create art, on who can write? And, if so, who judges? What guidelines do they use?

Chapter 5

How can Gamache condemn a play he hasn't even read?

Do you recall the book The Last Temptation of Christ? Some Christians strongly objected the author's humanizing Jesus Christ. A friend of mine did. And she planned to join the public protest. When I asked if she had read the book, she said, "No!"
I think it's dangerous to be so closed minded to art. Art is meant to provoke. 

Chapter 8

This is one of the richest chapters.

Beautiful language:  'The leaves overhead were changing, and with the bright sun on them it felt like they were walking under a massive stained-glass dome.' (p. 63)

Fine touches of humor:  'She looked like an escape from a Dr. Seuss book. On the lam from green eggs and ham.' (p. 64)

Thought provoking:  '[T]hey...knew that words were weapons too, and when fashioned into a story their power was almost limitless.' (p. 117)

Excellent brief character sketches of minor characters:  'The woman's hair was obviously dyed at home, and due for another treatment. And the man's hair was combed over, in an attempt to hide what could not be hidden.' (p. 111)

The transition of another character entering a scene is handled too lightly for me--forcing me to re-read that section. 'she led them inside just as Beauvoir arrived' (p. 112) How did he arrive? What was he wearing? More description would help to strengthen the transition.

Chapter 15

Armand:  ' "As a play? It's not bad at all. In fact, Annoinette was right. It's brilliant." ' (p. 129)

Chapter 24

Louise Penny isn't scared of the fractured sentence. In fact, she seems to embrace them. For example:  'She hide nothing. Not wrinkles, not flawed eyesight, not even the hole in her pantyhose.' (p. 210) An em-dash could transform the two sentences into one complete sentence. She hides nothing--not wrinkles, not flawed eyesight, not even the hole in her pantyhose.

Sometimes a character is called 'Evie', other times 'Evelyn'. There is no apparent reason for the change and it creates confusion. 

Final thought...

The reader certainly gets her money's worth--there are mysteries within mysteries within mysteries.


Louise Penny talks about 

Picture Books in Canada

The Acorn Press takes as its particular goal and mandate to help encourage the flourishing literary culture of Prince Edward Island by publishing "Books about Prince Edward Island by Prince Edward Islanders."  -from the website

Sharing my author journey...

With help from friends, I entered the Writers Retreat in Iceland contest to win full sponsorship.

A friend posted this link to the Writers Retreat in Iceland contest on facebook and tagged me. More friends wrote me reference letters. And I sent my application away on Tuesday, October 11th. Wish me luck. The deadline is October 30th. If I win, I will be in Iceland from Arpil 5 to 9. I hope to take you with me--through this blog. Winners are to be announced on December 1st.

Click this link to learn more about the Iceland Writers Retreat.


Darlene said...

Good luck with your contest entry. That would be some prize!! I like fractured sentences, especially in a mystery. Louise Penny has done very well with her books. Thanks for the great review.

Teresa Karlinski said...

This is exciting new, Darlene. I've crossed fingers and toes. What a dream prize. Best of everything!

Leanne Dyck said...

I too am a fan of Louise Penny's writing, Darlene, and it is my pleasure to fairly review her books--to the best of my ability.

Laurie Buchanan said...

Leanne — I'm doing an all body PRETZEL POSE for you; my digits and limbs are crossed, as are my eyes! If my hair was long enough, I'd braid it. I'm rooting for YOU to win the contest.

Len and I are huge fans of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series. I hope to purchase her newest release this week.

Leanne Dyck said...

: ) Picturing you in said pose has put a permanent smile on my face--but please don't hurt yourself. I truly appreciate your kind support.