The higher the expectations…

Book Review:  A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

I wanted to love this book.  All signs pointed to it being a great crime novel. For one, A Fatal Grace began a three year winning streak at the Agatha awards for Louise Penny.  (I’ve read a few other Agatha winners and have enjoyed discovering new authors that way.)  The review that really swayed me to make the purchase was by People magazine:

With superb characters and rich, dark humor, Penny… continues to deepen and modernize the traditional ‘village mystery.’

Unfortunately in the case of A Fatal Grace, I found that the higher the expectations the greater the disappointment.  I love crime fiction, especially the classic detective novel, but the mystery that Penny sets up is infuriatingly slow and unnecessarily complex.  I kept reading hoping that it would get better, but the neatly wrapped up ending was just as disappointing as the rest.

A Fatal Grace is the second of Penny’s novels featuring Chief Inspector Gamache and from what I can gather the second novel set in the quaint town of Three Pines, Quebec.  I will give Penny credit that she creates a beautiful little village.  If it weren’t for the extreme cold… and the propensity of people in the village to be murdered, I’d love to live there myself.  [smile]  The characters are equally intriguing creations, particularly the Chief Inspector and his staff.

Putting the murder of CC de Poitiers at the center aside, the plot ultimately revolves around belief.  At a particularly crucial point in his investigation, Chief Inspector Gamache quotes Mahatma Gandhi who sums up well Penny’s plot construction:

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your destiny.

In A Fatal Grace, misguided belief leads to death for CC de Poitiers and Gamache’s integrity and willingness to live with his doubts leads hims to the killer.

Next book on the nightstand:  Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle.  Read along with me if you’d like.  Also, I’m looking for some really great summer reads, I’d love to know your recommendations.  Please leave any suggestions you may have in the comments.