About the book (from the publisher): 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 Québec 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 old 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 Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibilty that, in not believing the boy, he himself has played a terrible part in what happens next.
My review: Anyone who reads this blog or my other blog knows how much I love Louise Penny’s work. To say I look forward to a new Chief Inspector Gamache novel is putting it mildly. Starting with Still Life, Penny has created a series of characters that are richly imagined, fully fleshed out, and yet keep surprising us.
Take Ruth Zardo, the irascible, difficult and award-winning poet, who lives in Three Pines. Of any of Penny’s creations, she is the thorniest. What makes her tick? Why is she the way she is? Why does she shut people out? In The Nature of the Beast, we find out.
As always with any Penny novel/mystery, there are layers upon layers to uncover and the author is brilliant at slowly peeling away those layers until we finally arrive at the truth. She doesn’t hold back when writing about the dark side of human beings, those places that are horrifying and evil and real. But along with all of that, we see and witness humanity and compassion and love. They win in the end. They save us.
It seems to this reader that the novels that are set in and around Three Pines are the most successful. When the action takes us away from Three Pines for the bulk of the novel, somehow the story suffers. I found this to be the case with The Long Way Home, last year’s Gamache mystery. But even a mildly disappointing Penny is well worth the read. She is simply a wonderful writer.
Along the way in this series, we’ve come to know the central characters and we’ve also seen some of them fall prey to their darker sides. It’s not pretty. It’s upsetting. Just as in real life. What Penny does so brilliantly is allow us to witness that dark side, go along on that journey, and love them, nonetheless. I marvel at how she does it.
There’s no black or white, is there? Just shades of gray. Penny realizes that and imbues her characters with flaws and goodness and offers them the chance of redemption.
The plot for this novel is complex and completely engrossing. I won’t reveal plot details, other than what is in the publisher’s description. I never do. I don’t want to take away the pleasure you will have when reading The Nature of the Beast.
I was riveted throughout this book. I’m sad that it’s over. I just may re-read it; it’s that good.
If you haven’t read any Louise Penny novels, you’re missing something wonderful. Start with Still Life and read them in order. The characters grow and change and you’ll want to witness those changes. You’ll want to be along for the ride.
Brilliant. That’s all I can say.
About the author: Louise Penny is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of ten previous Chief Inspector Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (five times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.
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I purchased my copy of The Nature of the Beast.