Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Margaret Atwood and Frozen Dog Poop: Thoughts While Reading A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

 A Fatal Grace, Louise Penny's second Chief Inspector Gamache novel.



I've seen these around, but it wasn't until Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote enthusiastically about them several times that I decided I should really check them out (bad library pun) investigate (bad mystery pun) read them.  They are not EXACTLY my favorite type of mystery, but they are about 97% there, which is about 65% better than most.  (I have very sophisticated instruments that measure this sort of thing for me.)   I don't like hard boiled crime stories, or super gory stuff, or anything that's focused on scaring the reader.  On the other hand, I don't like "cozy" mysteries, or mysteries with puns, or mysteries that have cute scenes of cupcakes and kitties on the cover.  I like character-drive, twisty psychological explorations with at least some characters I can root for and where not everyone's life gets destroyed by the investigation.  Penny's work (so far) has a setting that is a bit too cute to believe, but otherwise it's right at the sweet point between gory and cozy.  

Rather than a review, I'm just posting what I thought as I read.

Spoilers are in orange.  Sorry.  I thought I'd learn how to hide them, but I was mistaken.  

Cover:
Dammit, I never know how to pronounce French words.  I wonder how to say his name correctly?  I guess it's no worse than Dalziel or Dalgliesh.

pg. 28
Okay, so you've created this horrible, awful character who is destined to get killed, and now you're going to throw in a glimpse of backstory that makes me feel awful for her?  Thanks.

pg. 33
A homeless person calls you by name and the conclusion you leap to is...that it's God.  I don't think that would be my first thought.

pg. 37
Is this for real?  Carolers and everyone gathered in the church regardless of belief and the never ending dinners together?  I feel like Penny has created another Currier and Ives scene.  When Clara recognizes Three Pines from the magical Christmas windows at Olgivie's, it's like a little wink from the author--"I know this is too darn cute to be true, even with the murders."

pg. 54
Wow, eight chapters in before the Inspector is included.  I think I like that.

pg. 58
I just googled the poem fragment.  So Penny is writing these poems herself?  I do really like them, but it also seems kind of bold to have your character be a world-class poet and then write her world-class poetry.

addendum: on further research, the poems are by Margaret Atwood.  How authentically Canadian.  I can only assume she gave permission to have her poetry attributed to this delightfully horrible character.


pg. 143
Okay, even I know (roughly) who Eleanor of Aquitaine is.  Why hasn't a French Canadian detective at least heard of her?

pg. 177
Why does nobody think, "Hmm, maybe the awful horrible woman was making shit up to make Clara feel bad?" instead of, "Of course she just happened to be hanging out in a department store discussing Clara's work with a gallery owner while their escalators passed?"  Seems obvious from this side.  I get why Clara would be fooled, but why hasn't anyone else told her to not be ridiculous?

pg. 181
Oh Peter, you are in DEEP DOO-DOO.   In a very hilarious way.

pg. 183
"She was afraid she'd run out of time before she ran out of book."  Aren't we all, Émilie, aren't we all.

I like how these books include people of various ages and make them equally important and interesting characters.  It's a little light on the young folk, actually.  Diversity-wise we have the gay couple and the black lady, and there's a whole layer of French vs. English that I barely understand.  It seems very culturally homogenous, but I guess it's not really.

Why the references to the Great War?  Wouldn't WWII make more sense?  These ladies are younger than my parents if they were teens in the 1950s, and my grandparents were already too young for WWI.

pg. 188
I like the large number of mini-mysteries within the larger mystery, and I like feeling that I'm in good hands, that the author will explain all satisfactorily in the end.

Although, does two references to dogs eating frozen poop indicate that is going to be important in the solving of the case?  Seems unlikely, but it also seems odd that she keeps bringing it up.

pg. 226
Elle = L, right?
addendum: I'm a genius.

pg. 274
Now I'm googling another piece of music.  La Complainte Du Phoque En Alaska seems to be about a seal who left his sweetheart to be in a New York Circus.  This made girls weepy?  Hmm.


pg. 296
Why is Armand letting these three commit suicide but not the Superintendent?  Because they did it for a good cause?  When he changed his mind I thought it was some complex "She knows I didn't allow those other murderers to kill themselves, so by informing me of their plan, she was actually telling me to rescue her," thing, but no--he realized they weren't actually guilty.


pg. 308
Wait, what, who?  Who's playing whom here?  Confused and wanting the next book now please!

pg. 309
Okay, the one thing that made Nichole somewhat sympathetic--her desire to make her beloved dad proud--has now been removed.  May I hate her now?

FOUR STARS.






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