Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperback
Copyright date: 2006
Reason for Reading: I love this author and her chief protaganist
Award Featured: Agatha Award For Best Mystery Novel
Mysteries are one of my favorite genres. For me they are a good look at the varied characteristics of human nature. People often surprise me and the characters in mysteries are often similar to people I’ve known. I also like that the stories contain puzzles in which the reader must pay attention to the smallest of clues and try to outsmart the story’s protagonist.
Within the mystery genre, I’m a little picky about which mysteries I like. For instance, I can skip. stories with graphic violence. Even though I know at least one person is going to die, I don’t have to see it happen. My preferences are typified by the Agatha Award winners. This award is a literary award given annually to mystery and crime writers who write in the “same methods as Agatha Christie: closed setting, no [graphic] sex or violence, amateur detectives,” and so forth.
If you look at the list of past Agatha Awards you will see an interesting phenomenon: one author has won the award every year since 2007. That author is Louise Penny. That’s pretty good for an author who has only written six books. Her writing is amazing. Let me tell you about Fatal Grace, the 2007 Agatha Award Winner.
There are a couple of stars in Louise Penny’s novels. One is the setting. Three Pines is a small village just south of Montreal. It’s populated by a small group of caring, creative, and intelligent people. The other star is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. He works for the Quebec Sûreté. In Fatal Grace, this is the second time he and his team have been assigned to a case of suspicious death in Three Pines.
The victim, CC de Poitiers, was a very nasty, self-absorbed creature who was trying to launch a career as a life style/spiritual guidance designer. But she was cruel to everyone she knew, including her husband, daughter, lover, local residents, and virtually everyone she knew.
CC was electrocuted on Boxing Day while watching an outdoor curling match. Most of the town and her family were present, making them all eligible suspects. Details of how she was electrocuted in the midst of sub-zero conditions, was quite the puzzle. Since everyone wanted this woman dead, the mystery is who was smart enough to figure it out and how, exactly, did they pull it off. The Sûreté team was also investigating the murder of a vagrant which had an interesting tie-in with CC’s death.
What makes Louise Penny’s stories so amazing for me, and obviously for many others, is the author’s ability to create characters with so much depth and to infuse the story with more than just a mystery. In Fatal Grace we see inside the relationship of three old friends, the psyche of an abused child, the minor irritations of a married couple, a little dose of poetry and a bit about art. And, if that’s not enough, there’s also a little sub-plot with the Chief Inspector’s team that carried over from the first book.
I find it hard to write or talk about a special book like this one without resorting to a flood of overworked adjectives. You’ll have to trust me on this one – Fatal Grace is superb. If you are a person who likes to read literary novels, you won’t be disappointed. If mystery is your favorite genre, you must read anything by Louise Penny. Each novel can stand alone, however, I recommend starting with her first book, Still Life. Then, when you read Fatal Grace, you’ll understand how she won so many awards.