Book Review: Fatal Grace

fatal graceAuthor: Louise Penny

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperback

Copyright date: 2006

Pages: 342

Format: Paperback

Reason for Reading: I love this author and her chief protaganist

Award Featured: Agatha Award For Best Mystery Novel

Rating: A+

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.

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About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Mystery, Posts by Margot and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Book Review: Fatal Grace

  1. Kay says:

    Margot, I’m so glad that FATAL GRACE worked well for you. I feel like I am Louise Penny’s biggest fan. Her writing is stellar, in my opinion. You have so many good books ahead of you. I agree that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why these books are so much more than mysteries. They are true gems and Louise Penny is an artist.

    • Margot says:

      Kay, I am enjoying these novels because of you. I “discovered” them via your reviews. I will always be grateful. I’ll let you be Louise Penny’s biggest fan – for now. I have four books to go.

  2. bermudaonion says:

    I like mysteries too and keep meaning to try some of Penny’s work. This book sounds fantastic!

  3. kaye says:

    I’m another big fan of Louise Penny. Only one more to go and I’ll be caught up with the series. Can’t wait for #7! Margot, your review is terriffic, it brought back the whole story for me.

  4. jehara says:

    It’s been a while since I read mysteries. I was reading my way through Diane Davidson Mott’s Goldie series back in 2005. Two years ago I worked my way through the Sookie Stackhouse series. I may have to pepper my reading with more mysteries. Your review reminded me of how fun they are.

    p.s.-the property I live on is called Three Pines.

    • Margot says:

      Jehara, that is so cool that you live in Three Pines. The fictional Three Pines is very cold and snowy so my hunch is that your place is a bit warmer. I do hope you are able to give the Louise Penny books a try.

  5. I just was so disappointed with A Brutal Telling. And yet, here you are, awarding an A+ to this one – maybe I should give her another go!

    • Margot says:

      Hey Jill: I don’t remember what it was you didn’t like about BRUTAL TELLING. I have two more books to read before I get there. I really hope these stories don’t go downhill. I will be so disappointed.

  6. izzybella says:

    This sounds really good. I’ve never even heard of her, but I haven’t read as many mysteries lately as I used to. Just a question-does she explain what makes curling fascinating? 🙂 Because I have to confess I watched it for hours at the last Olympics trying to figure it out and I just didn’t get it.

    • Bumbles says:

      Izzy – I swear I did the same thing. I have no idea WHY the sport is so intriguing – all I know is that I tuned in to it because it was the only thing on and looked up later and 2 hours had gone by. I knew nothing more than when I started watching. I just kept wondering if maybe that was the way I could finally win that gold medal I’ve always dreamed of ;0)

    • Margot says:

      Izzy, I’m afraid if you are looking to this book for an understanding of curling, you will be disappointed. All I could figure out was that it was something done on the ice and all these Canadians were obsessed with it. Also, women my age were playing the game! I think it’s something Canadian (or cold weather people) play as children and learn to love it the rest of their lives.

  7. Oh, this sounds like a great read. I’ve never heard of Penny before. I’m going to have to fix that and quick. I wonder if I should start with her first or with this one. hmmm, doesn’t seem to be a wrong answer.

    • Margot says:

      Martha, I’ll be happy to take the credit for introducing you to Louise Penny’s books. It won’t make any difference if you start with any one of her books. If you really like it, you can always go back and start at the beginning. I first learned of them through Kay (first commenter above) and she recommended starting at the beginning so I did.

  8. Annie says:

    I like very much mysteries bok. Perhaps, I’ll try this one in a few weeks. Thanks !

    • Margot says:

      Annie, I think you will like these books because they are good mysteries but I also think you’ll like the bit of French that is in here too. Give it a try.

  9. Bumbles says:

    Thanks for the intro. to the new-to-me author. I have been disappointed by thrillers and mysteries that I have read in the last few years. I will pick up her first novel the next time I am looking to venture back into that genre this year. I enjoy especially more than just the mystery – but learning about the characteristics that lead a person into trouble.

    • Margot says:

      Molly, I hope you give this author a chance. She writes a complete story from the point of view of the characters. None of the characters are perfect – they are all like real people. In FATAL GRACE I could definitely see that the killer had some psychological problems which would lead to murder.

  10. FleurFisher says:

    I love Louise Penny’s books and so it is lovely to find you enjoying them too. My only problem is that she tends to have different titles for the US and UK, so I keep thinking I’ve found new books and then discovering I haven’t. Why must publishers do that?

    • Margot says:

      Hi Jane, Yes, I am enjoying Louise Penny. I don’t know why publishers persist in changing the titles depending on the country. The world is too small to be doing that. With the world wide web and book blogs, we all talk about these books and it would be so much better to be using the same titles. I can’t imagine what the publishers think they are gaining.

      I’m so glad you came by to visit me at Quirky Girls. Come again.

  11. I feel like a broken record saying that I’ve been wanting to read this author forever…but I have been meaning to read her work. I loved your review and you’ve convinced me that this is an author to check out!

  12. kaye says:

    I don’t read many mysteries–when I get in the mood I’ll look Louise Penny up.

  13. Belle Wong says:

    Great review, Margot. This is one of my favorite series, filled with characters I’ve really come to love!

  14. Pingback: April Round-up « somewhat bookish.

  15. New Reader says:

    I just finished ‘A Fatal Grace.’ Was it ever explained why L knew Clara’s art?

  16. Pingback: Joyfully Retired » My Favorite Books of 2011 | Books

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