Elizabeth: Author Squee – Louise Penny

It seems people are constantly giving me book and author recommendations – friends, magazines, random people on the internet – they are all responsible for the truly staggering depth and breadth of my TBR pile.  Some of my more persistent friends have recommended particular authors many times, sure that I would enjoy them immensely, yet I’ve never quite gotten around of them.

I blame GoodReads giveaways, RWA conferences, and my (possibly) regrettable tendency to read books I enjoy over and over again, rather than moving on to something new.  I’ve been trying to be better about that.

No, really, I have.

Since I instituted the “at least every other book has to be a new book” rule, I’ve read many, many new stories/authors and found some real keepers.

My current “find” is Louise Penny.

I don’t remember who first recommended her books to me, but somehow she wound up on my reading list, though she never quite percolated to the top.  That changed a month or so ago when the book I was then reading had a cover-blurb from her on it.  I figured that was a sign that it was time to take her out of the TBR pile and get her into the “read” column.  The local library apparently agreed since, when I headed off to look, book 1 in her Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series was on the eShelf and ready and waiting for me to check it out.

I’ll have to admit it was not a case of Love at First Sight Read.  I actually wasn’t quite sure what I thought of that first story.  It was different from the other books I was reading around that time and I’m not always good with new things, but I figured I should keep reading.  The library again agreed, since book 2 in the series was also ready and waiting on the eShelf.  I read it and liked it well enough, but I wasn’t devastated that there was a waiting list for book 3.  I was, however, curious enough about how some of the through-plot-lines were going to be resolved to put  my name on the waiting list for that and for the next few books and then I wandered off and read some other stuff (no, I did not take that free time as a sign that I should go off and write some other stuff; don’t be ridiculous).

Anyway, long story short, I eventually got to book 4 – A Rule Against Murder- and fell in love with the series and have been binge reading my way through the books as fast as I can get them from the library ever since.  Though I’ve already read them from the library, I bought books 4, 5, and 6 earlier this week, since I’m definitely going to be reading them again and they definitely belong on the keeper shelf.

The stories are mysteries, set in and around Quebec, featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.  There are the requisite dead bodies, investigations, red-herrings, clues, and unexpected twists, but what finally well and truly caught my interest was the characters and their sense of community.  The characters are not either good or bad, but rather a complex mix of hopes and desires and fears and needs.  Sometimes they are likeable and sometimes not, but what they always come across as is real.

The Chief Insepector’s anchor or maybe lifeline from the world of violence and death he inhabits so much of the time is his wife Reine-Marie – the true of his life.  That relationship is my favorite part of the stories and it’s why I liked book 4 so much, since the two of them were front and center for much of the book.

I can’t say I’ve successfully figured out the crimes before the ending of the books; not helped by the fact that there’s a character I’ve taken in dislike and keep hoping will turn out to be the murderer.  For these stories, however, I find it’s more about the journey, than the destination.

While on that journey, exploring the darkness that can live in the souls of others, the books  have moments of love and companionship and understanding, all surrounded by wonderful settings, and such enticing descriptions of food that I’m usually starving before long.

If you’re a fan of complex, engaging characters; wonderful prose; atmospheric writing; intriguing plots; and fascinating glimpses of human nature, then these stories may be for you.

Just a note:  The first three books in the series are fairily intertwined and  best read in order.  Book four is fairly stand-alone, but books five and six need to be read in order, so as not to result in spoilers.

If you’ve already read the series (or part of it) I’d love to hear what you think of it.  Is it on your keeper shelf?

9 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Author Squee – Louise Penny

  1. I seem to recall hearing about these books from someone else. If I ever get through my TBR&R (to be read and reviewed) pile, I’ll look for them!

    Or maybe once I get The Demon’s in the Details up on Amazon and Ingram Spark, I’ll give myself a luxurious week off to just read.

  2. Long ago I read book one in the Louise Penny series, and I didn’t really get into it so I haven’t read another. I’ve heard, though, that the series builds slowly and that she got better as she went along, so it sounds like I should give her another chance.

    Speaking of squee, I just read the first book in a series by Colin Cotterill called The Coroner’s Lunch, which is set in 1976 Laos. It’s terrific. I love the characters, and it beautifully conveys the tumult of Southeast Asia at the close of the Vietnam war. I have to check my library for more.

    • If you do decide to give Penny another try, I’d recommend trying book 4. You don’t need to know anything that went on in the previous three books to enjoy it.

      • Like Kay, I tried Book One a while ago. I found it slow going, lost interest and wandered off about halfway through. Maybe I should give the series another shot, starting at Book Four.

        • Well, the series isn’t for everyone and it took me a while to warm to it, but if you do want to give it another try, perhaps Book Four will appeal. The stories do have darkness with their light, but I enjoy the writing and, should I ever find myself murdered in Quebec, Inspector Gamache is just who I’d want doing the investigation 🙂

  3. I might have been the one who brought up Louise Penny with the group. I read the 9th book in the series, How the Light Gets In, back in 2014. It’s the 9th book in the series, which is a weird place to start, but I think it was because it was shortlisted for some sort of fiction prize. I then went back and read the rest, and have continued with the series as each new book has been released. The latest is waiting at the top of my TBR pile as a reward for when I get some work things checked off my list, but I know once I start reading it, I won’t stop.

    Thus far, I think The Nature of the Beast (book 11) is my favorite. Just a warning, though: as dark as the overall series can be, this one goes really dark. I happen to love that, but it’s not everyone’s cuppa. Happy reading as you make your way through the rest of the series!

    • Thanks for the head’s up on book 11. Book 9 just appeared on my eReader from the library, but I’m holding off from reading it tonight because if I start it I won’t stop until I’m done and I can’t do that for the second night in a row 😀.

  4. This is the really cool thing about most mysteries: you don’t need to read the whole series to enjoy them. I wonder if books 1, 2 and 3 would be better after you’ve read 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Maybe the author just didn’t have enough space to articulate her vision?

    (-: My TBR pile is too big, too. I managed to knock off a few books in December, but I still have at least a dozen more — a couple I want to read, but most of them “ones I want to get through” — such tepid enthusiasm does not bode well for them!

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