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?