Am a fan of Louise Penny and her slow, evocative build up of characters, situations and suspense. Was disappointed both at the pace as well as final denouement. The novel takes far too long to deliver. And for a change the plot which is centered on the "beast" itself looks unbelievable.
After exposing widespread internal corruption in the Surete in 2013's How the Light Gets In, a bitter Chief Inspector Armand Gamache retired, and I was afraid that the series would come to a premature end. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. For Gamache, there is so much life and adventure after retirement. Louise Penny’s The Nature of the Beast is the eleventh book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series, and definitely one of the best. Coming just a day short of a year since The Long Way Home was released, The Nature of the Beast is a story that will appeal to long-standing fans of the series and starts with a heart-pounding, pulsating race for life as a frantic nine-year-old Laurent Lepage sprinted through the forest, dodging the tree trunks as he tries to shake off his pursuers.
After more than twenty years as head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec, former Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, with his wife Reine-Marie Gamache, is leading a retired life in the peace and quiet of the fictional village of Three Pines village in Quebec, a small town just north of the Vermont border and south of Montreal. While Three Pines couldn’t hide them from the woes of the world, it was enough to heal the wounds of their past, and they were happy and healthy. But their new found peace and tranquility was to be short-lived.
Trouble started brewing in Three Pines when Laurent Lepage goes missing after annoying the people yet again with another of his ludicrous claims about a monster and a huge, huge gun hidden in the woods, just the other side of the bridge. He claimed that it was huge, bigger than a house and there’s a monster on it, with wings. Some thought it was a potent combination of wishful thinking and madness. But for others it was the strong imagination present in every child which they eventually outgrow. He was the boy who cried wolf in the tiny village of Three Pines. Laurent may be wild and crazy but he’s a great kid and most adults love him. And things started to fall apart when Laurent Lepage was found dead, and the gun in the woods with monsters on it was not a creation of his fanciful imagination but a rocket launcher carefully hidden by men capable of indescribable inhumanity.
Another thread of the story follows a plan by Antoinette Lemaitre, the artistic director of Knowlton Playhouse, and her partner Brian Fitzpatrick, to stage a play entitled She Sat Down and Wept, written by a nondescript playwright John Fleming. When Gamache heard of the playwright he started thinking and came to realize that it was the same John Fleming who was arrested and tried eighteen years ago for crimes so hideous it was not made public. Lodged at the special handling unit, John Fleming is considered to be beyond help. Author Louise Penny weaves a fascinating and wonderfully paced story, beautifully merging the two threads.
The Nature of the Beast brings back the Gamache’s neighbor and friend Clara Morrow, who is still reeling under the pain of losing her husband Peter Morrow in The Long Way Home, Annie and her husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, Monsier Beliveau, the grocer, Myrna Landers, owner of the bookstore, Ruth Zardo, the old poet with her duck, Rosa, and various others many readers will be familiar with. The Nature of the Beast is a pure delight to read although the discussion about the play and its ramifications was a bit tedious and protracted. But everything falls into place once Project Babylon and the beastly nature of John Fleming were revealed. I leave the book with a lot of sympathy for Evelyn and Al Lepage, but not the Frederick Lawson that Al was before he crossed the border. The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny is a crime mystery thriller that will take you on an incredible journey right into the hearts and pains of its characters. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with it!