||The order of the Gamache books, from first to most recent, is:
Still Life, A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold (same book,
different title), The Cruelest Month, A Rule Against
Murder/The Murder Stone (same book, different title),
The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, A Trick of the
Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets
In, The Long Way Home, The Nature of the Beast,
A Great Reckoning, Glass Houses.
Here now are some of the reactions to the
books, from latest to first:
When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines
one cold November day, Armand Gamache and the
rest of the villagers are at first curious. Then
wary. And finally, watching the unmoving figure,
a pall settles over the pretty Québec village.
Armand Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the
Sûreté du Québec, knows something
is seriously wrong. Through rain and sleet, the
figure stands unmoving, staring ahead. An accusation
on the village green. Gamache knows there must
be a purpose behind this odd act.
Yet Gamache does nothing. What can he do? Only
watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are
But when the figure vanishes and a body is discovered,
it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has
been discharged, or levied.
Months later, on a steamy July day as the trial
for the accused begins in Montreal, Chief Superintendent
Gamache continues to struggle with actions he
set in motion that bitter November, from which
there is no going back. More than the accused
is on trial. Gamache's own conscience is standing
#1 on the New York Times and Globe and
Mail lists, making it the most popular book in
GLASS HOUSES has
been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel.
The Audio Publishers Association has announced
the finalists for the coveted Audie Awards for
spoken word books. Robert Bathurst is nominated
in two categories for GLASS
HOUSES!! Best Crime Novel (where Rhys Bowen
and Ann Cleeves are also nominated!) and Best
Male Narrator. Click
here to view all the nominees.
GLASS HOUSES has
been nominated for the Best Mystery Award by Left
Coast Crime, in the US! Click
here to view all the nominees.
has been named a Best Book of 2017 by:
Barnes and Noble's Best
Fiction Books of 2017
NPR - Find
your next Great Read list
NPR - See
what we Loved list
Book of 2017
The London Sunday Times
Washington Post's Ten
Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2017
Toronto Globe and Mail
Best Book of the Year at Indigo (Canadas
of the year Mystery List 2017
Audiobooks of 2017
Library Reads "Favorite of Favorites"
The Christian Science Monitor Best
of 30 books for 2017
London Times (A Best Book of 2017)
Superintendent Armand Gamache of the Quebec police is
one of the most interesting detectives in crime fiction."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Its a profound story, with all the warmth
of steaming coffee drinks in the town bistro and the
bitter cold of death and decay of the conscience."
A LibraryReads Pick for August 2017
A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Mystery for Fall 2017
absorbing, intricately plotted
she only gets better at pursuing dark truths with compassion
The New York Times Book Review
"Louise Penny wrote the book on escapist mysteries."
Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
.No other writer
writes like Penny
characters are distilled to their essences. The stylistic
result is that a Gamache mystery reads a bit like an
incantatory epic poem....It takes nerve and skill -
as well as heart - to write mysteries like this."
Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal
"Ms. Penny has a gift for linking the mundane to
Gamache becomes a heraldic figure, as
brave and cunning as the hero of an Icelandic saga,
and the contemporary evils he battles have apocalyptic
The Seattle Times
"Outstanding....On all counts, 'Glass Houses' succeeds
brilliantly, full of elegant prose, intricate plots,
and-most of all-Penny's moving, emotionally complex
hero and his circle of friends and colleagues."
Christian Science Monitor
"Penny-whose books wind up on Best Novels of the
Year lists, not 'just' Best Mysteries-is a one-woman
argument against literary snobbery....Top notch."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Its a profound story, with all the warmth
of steaming coffee drinks in the town bistro and the
bitter cold of death and decay of the conscience."
Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
"Penny's latest is one of her best ever
couldn't stop reading."
BookPage (Top Pick in Mystery)
"Gamache will face life-changing questions about
the nature of guilt and innocence and the thin blue
line separating law and conscience, leaving the reader
contemplating these conundrums well after the final
page has been turned."
"With grace and insight
Penny has pushed the
boundaries of the genre with each novel, and 'Glass
Houses' takes them still further
.And she does
so with compassion, decency and love as she depicts
evil, exalts courage and neither flinches nor preaches
as she confronts moral ambiguities-and the health and
sickness within each soul."
"Louise Penny steers the complex plot
a white-knuckle ending
.If it is conceivable for
Penny to top herself, she has done so in this soul-searching,
psychologically insightful journey
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The tension has never been greater
built mystery that follows a careful ascent toward a
breaking point that will leave you breathless. It's
Three Pines as you have never seen it before."
Booklist (starred review)
"..one of the most entrancing fictional worlds
in popular literature."
Library Journal (starred review)
"The award-winning Penny does not rest on her laurels
with this challenging and timely book."
"An exciting, high-stakes climax."
When an intricate old map is found
stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three
Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity.
But the closer the villagers look, the stranger
Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.
And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.
Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.
The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.
For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.
A GREAT RECKONING
has debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller
As well, A GREAT
RECKONING has won multiple awards
for BEST CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR, including::
Left Coast Crime Award
And had received international recognition:
New York Times Book Review 10 Best Crime
Novels of the Year
The Washington Post Best Mystery Books and Thrillers
NPR's Best Books of 2016
Seattle Times 10 Best Mysteries of 2016
Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction 2016
Publishers Weekly Best Mysteries and Thrillers
Winner of the 2016 BookBrowse Fiction Award
LibraryReads "Favorite of Favorites"
Top 10 Books of 2016
Goodreads Best Mystery & Thriller of 2016
BookPage 10 Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2016
Audible's Best Mystery/Thriller of 2016
St. Louis Post-Dispatch 5 Favorite Audiobooks
BOLO Books Top Reads of 2016
New York Times (lead review)
London Sunday Times
"Pennys elliptical style works brilliantly
in a novel that combines modern-day police corruption
with a century old tragedy."
"….Deep and grand and altogether extraordinary....Miraculous."
USA Today made it the lead in its "New and Noteworthy" section, calling it one of the hottest books on sale this week.
O Magazine named it a Top Ten Book for September and called it ‘…suspenseful….’
'…chilling….Penny’s skillful pacing and idiosyncratic characters only add to the suspense.'
The Seattle Times
'Her work is rich with luminous prose, complex but uncluttered plots, and profound compassion.'
'…nothing short of addictive.'
Richmond Times Dispatch
"...this splendid and moving novel..."
London Sunday Times - Crime Book of the Month
'Penny's elliptical style works brilliantly in a novel that combines modern-day police corruption with a century-old tragedy.'
And Audio File Magazine gave A GREAT RECKONING its Earphones Award and says:
"....You'll love your stay in Three Pines."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Kirkus Review (starred review)
'...A chilling story that's also filled with hope…'
Booklist (starred review)
Library Journal (starred review)
' …riveting... '
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 Quebec 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 possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.
Kirkus Review (starred review)
'...a mystery with global scope and consequences…. What makes this story most magical...is the perfect reminder of the dark side of human nature, but that side does not always win out. Penny is an expert at pulling away the surface of her characters to expose their deeper—and often ugly—layers, always doing so with a direct but compassionate hand.'
Library Journal (starred review)
'.... A strong sense of place, a multilayered plot, and well-crafted (and for Penny's fans, familiar) characters combine for a thoughtful, intriguing tale. More than a simple mystery, Penny's novel peels away the emotional and psychological layers of the inhabitants of Three Pines..'
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
'The bucolic Quebec village of Three Pines again proves no refuge in Penny's stellar 11th Armand Gamache novel…. Gamache has settled in the small community after retiring from the Sûreté, where he worked as a homicide detective. But he's drawn back to the hunt after Laurent Lepage, a nine-year-old boy with a penchant for crying wolf, is found dead under circumstances that Gamache finds suspicious…. Series fans will delight in Penny's continued complex fleshing out of characters they have come to love..'
'…a compelling mystery that leads to an exciting but tantalizingly open-ended finale.'
'Louise Penny is unsurpassed at building a sense of heart-stopping urgency. Sometimes the stakes are personal…Sometimes the threat is to the village…This time Penny manages to create a threat that could truly be worldwide, and to place its future in the hands of our friends in Three Pines. Attention, fans who have been waiting for poet Ruth Zardo's backstory: Here's at least part of your wish granted.'
'In this, the 11th title in the series, Penny sustains her high-wire act, creating characters of remarkable depth in an exhilarating whodunit.'
"…Louise Penny has crafted an immensely rich and satisfying traditional mystery world, tipping the hat to Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey and PD James, but with her own distinctive recipe: complex characters far removed from village stereotypes, ingenious plots, and a captivating lead detective in Gamache."
Wall Street Journal
'….atmospheric and deeply humane…'
'…. a gripping plot, rich characterizations, arresting prose and thought-provoking questions of mercy, malice and the contradictions of the human race.'
"The next book in Louise Penny's much-loved Chief Inspector Gamache series does not disappoint. When a little boy who constantly tells tall tales disappears from his Quebec village, the community is forced to reexamine his supposed stories. With the help of former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, Armand Gamache, the investigation and the frantic search for him begins. As they embark on their quest for the truth, they quickly down the rabbit hole, beginning a sequence of events that leads to answers they never dreamed were possible."
Salem Macknee, McClatchy Tribune wire
"Louise Penny is unsurpassed at building a sense of heart-stopping urgency."
"A complex mystery..."
"A world of dark truth lies under the surface. One of the wonders of 'The Nature of the Beast' is how subtly and relentlessly the author mines that darkness, and how surely her detective steps through it, without once losing his cool."
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"It's always a delight to spend time with the village denizens, whose levels of compassion, sarcasm and loyalty never waver. Grade: A-."
"A writer with wit and style who stands out from the crime fiction crowd."
AARP, The Magazine
"MODUS OPERANDI: All about morals as well as murder."
San Francisco Chronicle
"The author of 10 best-selling books featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache infuses her mysteries with the beauty, culture and mouthwatering cuisine of Quebec."
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
"A fascinating and complex plot… The plot and its implications are indeed serious, but Ms. Penny tells her story with a light-handed deftness that allows events to move swiftly."
"Louise Penny is back at full strength... Three Pines in her skillful hands becomes a literary pageant and the secret of its charm is its simplicity."
Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
"A fine plot… this beast has teeth."
"Penny has created eleven different mystery novels and one novella, many of them bestsellers, that weave together the excitement of classic whodunits with the pleasure of small town life."
"Evil, from both outside and inside the village, is always a presence, and the struggle to resist it gives the novels gravity and a sense of suspense… Penny crafts her mystery carefully... She knows how to shape a novel for both readers new to the series and regulars… Penny has shaped a world in which the characters are constantly evolving, reacting to violence but also to love and connection. Elements of that world might be predictable, even comfortable, but enough remains outside its control to make it worth entering again and again, for both its stability and its surprises."
THE NATURE OF THE BEAST has been nominated for two prestigious Anthony awards in the US. For Best Crime Novel and for Best Audio.
THE NATURE OF THE BEAST has been nominated for an Agatha Award in the US for Best Crime Novel
THE NATURE OF THE BEAST has won Best World Mystery, given out at Left Coast Crime.
The Audio Publishers Association has nominated Robert Bathurst and THE NATURE OF THE BEAST for an Audie Award, for Best Mystery. Congratulations Robert!!
The Independent Booksellers Association named it a Must Read IndieNext pick
People Magazine named THE NATURE OF THE BEAST as Best Book of the Week
The Library Association named it an August LibraryReads
The US television talk show The View named it a Great Fall Read
THE NATURE OF THE BEASTwas selected by Amazon as a Book of the Month for September 2015
The Boston Globe chose The Nature of the Beast as their Book of the Week
An Indie Next Pick for September
iBooks - Best of September
The Reading Room book blog has also highlighted THE NATURE OF THE BEAST as one of their favorite reads of 2015
Former Chief Inspector of Homicide, Armand Gamache, has found a peace he’d never imagined possible, away from the front line of the police and in the tranquil village of Three Pines. But when his friend Clara Morrow asks for help, he can’t bring himself to refuse her, despite the old wounds it threatens to re-open. Clara’s husband, Peter, is missing, having failed to come home on the first anniversary of their separation, as promised.
As Gamache journeys further into Quebec, he is drawn deeper into the tortured mind of Peter Morrow, a man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist that he would sell his soul. As Gamache gets closer to the truth, he uncovers a deadly trail of jealousy and deceit. Can Gamache bring Peter, and himself, home safely? Or in searching for answers, has he placed himself, and those closest to him, in terrible danger . . .
From number one New York Times bestselling author, Louise Penny, comes an evocative, immersive novel brimming with atmosphere and heart-stopping suspense – her most ingenious novel to date.
Ralph Cosham is once again the voice of Armand Gamache in THE LONG WAY HOME and the publishers, Macmillian Audio have produced an excerpt.
Ralph has also been interviewed by The Washington Post click here to read that article. You can download The Long Way Home from the audible website.
New York Times
'Splendid....Ms. Penny's books mix some classic elements of the police procedural with a deep-delving psychology, as well as a sorrowful sense of the precarious nature of human goodness, and the persistence of its opposite, even in rural Edens like Three Pines.'
Booklist (starred review)
'As always, Penny dexterously combines suspense with psychological drama, overlaying the whole with an all-powerful sense of landscape as a conduit to meaning…. Another gem from the endlessly astonishing Penny….
Penny appears to have reserved a lifetime seat atop best-seller lists
everywhere, and, with the appearance of her latest, she will take her place once again.'
The Long Way Home
Canada / US Edition
The Long Way Home
25th February 2016
'Perceptive… perfectly paced…The prose is remarkably fresh, filled with illuminating and delightful turns of phrase.'
Library Journal (starred review)
'Penny wraps her mystery around the history and personality of the people involved. By this point in the series, each inhabitant of Three Pines is a distinct individual, and the humor that lights the dark places of the investigation is firmly rooted in their long friendships, or, in some cases, frenemyships. The heartbreaking conclusion will leave series readers blinking back tears.'
'The emotional depth accessed here is both a wonder and a joy to uncover… Gamache's 10th outing culminates in one breathless encounter, and readers may feel they weren't prepared for this story to end.
....This series dominates best-seller lists and award lists for a reason. Penny tells powerful stories of damage and healing in the human heart, leavened with affection, humor and – thank goodness – redemption.'
Richmond Times Dispatch
'A story that examines the making of art and the struggles of artists, 'The Long Way Home" is itself a work of art, a novel that transcends genre, engages heart and mind and, like all of Penny's work, leaves the reader awestruck by the depth of her skills and the decency of her spirit.'
Globe and Mail
"Louise Penny's new Inspector Gamache novel…is, in fact, the best story so far, thanks to strong characters, a deep and sophisticated plot, and just a soupçon of Joseph Conrad"
THE LONG WAY HOME has debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list!
THE LONG WAY HOME is not only #1 on the NYTimes bestseller list (Hardcover and combined print and ebook), but also on the Canadian Globe and Mail list - which makes THE LONG WAY HOME the #1 book in North America!!!
THE LONG WAY HOME was listed as one of Bill Ott of Booklist’s - Best of Crime Novels 2015
THE LONG WAY HOME, has been chosen one of the Best Books of 2014 by a number of places including . .
||Kirkus Reviews named it a Best Crime Fiction of the Year
||The Washington Post chose it as one of the Best Fiction Books of the Year
||The Globe and Mail named it to their Top 100 Books of the Year and one of the top 5 crime novels
||National Post named THE LONG WAY HOME Best in Continuing Series, Masters Edition
||The Toronto Star has named THE LONG WAY HOME as one of the Best Crime Fiction books of the Year
||Amazon.com named it a Best Book of 2014
||Chosen as an IndieNext Pick by the Independent Booksellers Association.
||Kobo has placed it in the Top Crime Fiction of the Year
||The Long Way Home has been included in BookBrowse's annual Best of the Year 2014 list
||Barnes and Noble chose it as a Top Holiday Book
||AudioFile has named THE LONG WAY HOME the Best Crime Fiction Audio Book of 2014!! This is a bittersweet acknowledgement of the gifts of Ralph Cosham, since he passed away earlier in the fall. But it is still reason to celebrate a wonderful man. Oh, how we miss him.
||The Long Way Home audiobook has also been included in Audible’s Best of 2014
||The Library Journal have chosen THE LONG WAY HOME as one of their Best Media / Best Audio books for 2014
||Aunt Agatha's (a fabulous crime fiction bookstore in Ann Arbor) has named THE LONG WAY HOME one of the Best Crime Novels of 2014
is a crack in everything. Thats how the
light gets in. - Leonard Cohen
Christmas is approaching, and in Québec
its a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright
lights, and gatherings with friends in front of
blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the
usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand
Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the
Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant
Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasnt spoken to him in
months, and hostile forces are lining up against
him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna
Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive
for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he
welcomes the chance to get away from the city.
Mystified by Myrna's reluctance to reveal her
friend's name, Gamache soon discovers the missing
woman was once one of the most famous people not
just in North America, but in the world, and now
goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except
the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.
events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper
into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he
is not only investigating the disappearance of
Myrnas friend but also seeking a safe place
for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is
there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and
at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN has been shortlisted for the Gold Dagger by the Crime Writer's Association, for best crime novel of the year in the UK! The winner will be announced at a formal gala in London on Oct 24th 2014.
Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel.
Nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award for Best Novel
Nominated by Left Coast Crime organizers for Best Novel Set Outside the US
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN has been named by the Washington Post one of the top 5 Fiction Books of the Year and has been chosen an IndieNext pick by the Independent Booksellers Association in the US.
Named by The Globe Books 100: Best Crime by the Globe & Mail
Amazon.com has named HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN to their BEST OF 2013 list
Named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year list
Barnes and Noble has put HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN on its Best Fiction of 2013 list
Named to Goodreads Best Mystery-Thriller Books 2013 list
How The Light Gets In
Canada / US Edition
How The Light Gets In
Library Journal has named HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN one of the best audiobooks of 2013
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN has been named BEST FICTION BOOK OF 2013 by Book Browse in the US.
The American Library Association made it a top ten pick for best book published in the entire nation in September.
AudioFile Magazine has named HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN one of the year's Best Crime Novels, and has also named the remarkable Ralph Cosham one of the year's top narrators.
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN has been shortlisted for the Gold Dagger, by the Crime Writer's Association, for best crime novel in the UK.
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN has debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list!!
.luminous insights into trust and friendship, that
will hook readers and keep them hooked..'
"Penny has always used setting to support theme brilliantly,
but here she outdoes herself, contrasting light and dark,
innocence and experience, goodness and evil both in the
emotional lives of her characters and in the way those
characters leave their footprints on the landscape. Another
bravura performance from an author who has reinvented
the village mystery as profoundly as Dashiell Hammett
transformed the detective novel."
with subtlety and intelligence. Once again, Penny impressively
balances personal courage and faith with heartbreaking
choices and monstrous evil"
"Penny's mysteries are really character studies.
There is police procedure being followed, but the forensics
take second place to Gamache's absolutely fascinating
probe into the characters of every single person involved
in the investigation: the police, the witnesses, and especially
the suspects. He cares passionately about each person
and makes the reader care. Highly recommended"
The Washington Post
....extraordinary. In How the Light Gets In, Penny has written a magnificent mystery novel that appeals not only to the head, but also to the heart and soul."
"A New and Noteworthy Book - Four out of Four Stars: ....sophisticated and complex...Penny immerses the reader in a high-suspense cyber-hacking drama emanating from the off-the-grid Three Pines that proves not only pivotal but memorable....At the center of everything is Gamache — a modest, smart, kind-hearted man whose empathy and warmth may be his fatal flaw and certainly defy that of stereotypic crime-thriller detectives....You buy into it…because, if it were true, this would somehow be a better world. And you want it to be true, even if only in fiction. Sometimes that's how the light gets in."
People Magazine in the US (four out of four stars)
"Once again, Penny delivers a masterful, nuanced suspense novel in which tone and setting are just as riveting as the murderer's who and why."
Daily Express (UK)
"Louise Penny twists and turns the plot, expertly tripping the reader up just at the moment you think you might have solved the mystery. She excels with the characterisation of Armand Gamache. Creating through him a story of human perseverance in the face of personal turmoil. He is a deeply complex character....Unrelentingly fast-paced, it powers through its narrative with the force of a high-speed train."
Richmond Times Dispatch
"With the grace of a master prose stylist and the generosity born of a kind heart, Penny again explores the mysteries of humanity in a novel that builds to a nerve-burning climax, engages the mind in an examination of sin and redemption....Suffused with brilliance on all levels, "How the Light Gets In" displays Penny at her beautiful and bountiful best."
....How the Light Gets In is a story about crime (against nature and against the rules of society), corruption (personal and political), and murder (both actual and metaphysical). Hope and fear, good and evil, friendship and betrayal, love and hate, innocence and corruption: Penny explores the battling dualities that exist in all of us, and the necessity of battle (and even failure) to create resilience. Her novel about death and decay becomes a book about how to live: everything broken has a crack, but that is how the light gets in.
For those of you in the UK, Australia and New Zealand interested in buying HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, click here for more information .
||Listen to How the Light Gets in audiobook, read by Ralph Cosham. Macmillian Audio has produced
an excerpt Click
here to hear it.
outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of
Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in
the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered
monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables,
they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they
sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken
a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous
for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants
whose effect on both singer and listener is so
profound it is known as the beautiful mystery.
when the renowned choir director is murdered,
the lock on the monasterys massive wooden
door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand
Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté
du Québec. There they discover disquiet
beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony.
One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and
contemplation, has been contemplating murder.
As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache
is forced to confront some of his own demons,
as well as those roaming the remote corridors.
Before finding the killer, before restoring peace,
the Chief must first consider the divine, the
human, and the cracks in between.
(on Sept 16th list)
Globe and Mail
(includes all books, fiction/non-fiction/paperback
The Beautiful Mystery
Canada / US Edition
The Beautiful Mystery
THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY has won the Agatha Award for Best
Mystery in the US!
THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY won the Anthony
Award for Best Crime Novel
THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY has won the Macavity Award for Best Crime Novel of the year in the US - as voted on by members of Mystery Readers International.
Publishers Weekly named Best Summer Book of 2012 (long
before pub date)
Booklist - name THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY in top 10 crime
fiction titles of the year
Ralph Cosham has won the Audie Award for Best Audio Crime
Novel in the US for narrating THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY
New York Times
"Penny writes with grace and intelligence about complex
people struggling with complex emotions. But her great
gift is her uncanny ability to describe what might seem
indescribable - the play of light, the sound of celestial
music, a quiet sense of peace."
People Magazine (Editor's Pick, 4 out of 4 stars)
With enormous empathy for the troubled human souland
an ending that makes your blood race and your heart breakPenny
continues to raise the bar of her splendid series.
The Globe and Mail
....Its a stirring, thought- provoking read, less
a matter of whodunit than a relentless questioning of
why any of us do anything. The Beautiful Mystery...stands
as a powerful literary novel in its own right...
"An entire mystery novel centering on Gregorian chants
(whose curiously hypnotic allure is called the beautiful
mystery)? Yes, indeed, and in the hands of the masterful
Penny, the topic proves every bit as able to transfix
readers as the chants do their listeners.... P. D. James,
of course, has made a career out of taking her sleuth,
Adam Dalgliesh, into closed worlds to investigate murders,
and while Penny follows that formula, she layers her plots
more intricately than does James, this time adding an
entire contrapuntal plot concerning Gamache, Beauvoir,
their relationship, the secrets each conceals, and the
demons each continues to fight....Of course, there is
always something mammoth roiling away beneath the surface
of Pennys novelsbut this time the roiling
is set against the serenity of the chanting, producing
a melody of uncommon complexity and beauty."
"Excellent....a captivating whodunit plot, a clever
fair-play clue concealed in plain view, and the deft use
of humor to lighten the story's dark patches. On a deeper
level, the crime provides a means for Penny's unusually
empathic, all-too-fallible lead to unearth truths about
human passions and weaknesses while avoiding simple answers."
"....remarkably penetrating and humane. The most
illuminating analogies are not to other contemporary detective
fiction but to The Name of the Rose and Murder in the
"...This heart-rending tale is a marvelous addition
to Pennys acclaimed series."
"Hallelujah. Amid the formulaic dross that makes
up so much current crime fiction, gems can be found
The Winnipeg Free Press
"With The Beautiful Mystery, there's no longer
any doubt: Penny is Canada's best contemporary crime
writer, among the best in the world, and one of our
best writers, period."
The Seattle Times
a book by Louise Penny have a better title than "The
Beautiful Mystery". The title, like Penny's fiction,
has multiple layers. First is the crime: the murder
of the choir director of a monastery in the deep woods
of Quebec. Then there's the joyous but inexplicable
emotions the monks' glorious liturgical singing invokes.
And there's the disconnect between the monks' vows of
silence and their renowned singing. And then, of course,
there's the mystery of religion itself....For the reader,
meanwhile, there's a final beautiful mystery to contemplate:
How does Penny consistently write such luminous and
The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer (Salem Macknee)
"Penny shows us the joy of the cloistered life
as surely as she has shown us the joy of village life
fans of the series, the resulting bombshell in the characters'
lives is as much like murder as anything ever delivered
by a blunt instrument."
Richmond Times Dispatch
"Penny - who melds prose at once expressive and
restrained with a keen understanding of human emotions
- creates a novel that earns its title, a book that
shines with the grace and compassion that stamp her
"Certain writers remain utterly reliable, utterly
"A tense plot with a finite group of suspects will
keep the reader involved until the last clue"
"The Beautiful Mystery is an ingenious, sinister
"Here is a good old-fashioned detective yarn with
a believable plot, charming characters, a fascinating
location and enough red herrings to keep the reader
"One of the joys of detective fiction"
the audio book front, Ralph Cosham is again reading THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY and the publishers, Macmillian Audio has produced
an excerpt. Click
here to hear it.
More great news - THE BEAUTIFUL
MYSTERY has won an Earphones Award from
For those of you in the UK, Australia and New Zealand interested in buying THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, click here for more information.
'Penny, elevating herself to the pantheon that houses
P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters, demonstrates
an exquisite touch with characterization, plotting and
'Outstanding....Penny effectively employs...the interplay
of light and dark...which resonates symbolically in
the souls of the characters.'
Like P. D. James, Penny shows how the tight structure
of the classical mystery story can accommodate a wealth
of deeply felt emotions and interpersonal drama
of the genre.
Magazine (4 out of 4 stars)
.With her smart plot and fascinating,
nuanced characters, Penny proves again that she is one
of our finest writers.
The New York Times Book Review
A deceptively charming whodunit
acute insights into the complicated motives of complex
.Behind each volatile outburst of marital
discord and professional envy lies some deeper truth
involving the betrayal of trust and the need for atonement
Parade Magazine (A Book of the Week Pick)
Louise Penny elevates the small-town murder mystery
to new heights in this seventh installment of her psychologically
piercing series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
A commanding and artful performance
connoisseurs of mysteries, success is judged by the
genre's holy trinity: plot, people and prose. When all
three attain excellence, a fourth quality shines through:
.. what lifts her work to the highest plane
is the deep sense of humanity with which she invests
her novels, and A Trick of the Light satisfies
and surpasses that standard.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
.Penny continues to
amaze with each novel. Wrapped in exciting plots and
domestic details, her characters are people we want
to follow through their very real joys and sorrows.
Times, has made A TRICK OF THE LIGHT a "Top Pick"
"Pennys characters are sharply drawn, realistically
complicated and heartbreakingly real. Wonderful, complex
characters and sophisticated plotting makes this a perfect
book. Do not miss it."
The Associate Press
...a gripping mystery.
Kaye Barley, at Meanderings and Muses and Dorothy
I keep using the word "stunning" for Ms.
Penny's work time and time again. And I keep saying
"this one is the best one yet." Big sigh.
A Trick of the Light is STUNNING and yes, it is the
best one yet. HOW does she keep doing this? And continually
top her own work?.... As far as what happens in Three
Pines - suffice to say, A LOT! Some things many of us
have been waiting for, a few things that will make you
laugh out loud, some things that will break your heart
and move you to tears along with a few surprise twists.
You know - all those things that Louise Penny just keeps
doing with such apparent ease.
As Quebec City shivers in the grip of winter,
its ancient stone walls cracking in the cold,
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache plunges into the
most unusual case of his celebrated career. A
man has been brutally murdered in one of the city's
oldest buildings - a library where the English
citizens of Quebec safeguard their history. And
the death opens a door into the past, exposing
a mystery that has lain dormant for centuries...a
mystery Gamache must solve if he's to apprehend
a present-day killer.
York Times Bestseller 2010
London Times Bestseller 2011
London Times Book of the Week
Winner of The Nero Award for Literary Excellence
in the Mystery Genre for 2011
Winner of The Anthony Award for Best Crime Novel
of 2010 (Second year in a row)
Winner the Agatha Award for Best Novel in 2010
(Fourth year in a row)
Winner, American Library Association best Mystery,
Winner, The Dilys Award, from the Independent
Mystery Bookstores Association (IMBA) for the
book they most enjoyed selling in 2010
Winner, The Macavity Award for Best Novel of 2010
Winner, the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian
Novel of 2010
USA Today Bestseller
American Booksellers Association Bestseller
Canadian Booksellers Association, booksellers
top hand sell for 2010
Kirkus Review Top Mystery of 2010
Publisher's Weekly Top Mystery of 2010
Booklist Top Mystery of 2010
Amazon.com top 100 books of 2010
Amazon.com top Audio Book of 2010
AudioFile Best Recorded Mystery of 2010
Toronto Globe and Mail Top Mystery of 2010
Chicago Tribune, Top Mystery of 2010
Finalist, Best Book of 2010 in any category, BookBrowse
Finalist, Good Reads, Best Mystery and Thriller,
Finalist The Barry Award for Best Novel of 2010
Finalist for the David Award of Deadly Ink for
Best Novel of 2010
People Magazine Editor's Pick with 4 of 4 Stars,
October 11, 2010
Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Top Mystery of 2010
The Halifax Chronicle Herald, top Mystery of 2010
Indie Next "Great Reads from Booksellers
You Trust" for October, 2010
BookPage Mystery of the Month, October, 2010
Kirkus Review, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal,
and Booklist Reviews
Quill and Quire: Top 10 Mystery of 2011 (UK Edition)
Globe and Mail Best (Canadian) Book of 2011
Bury your Dead
Bury your Dead
Canada / UK / Commonwealth
news - GAMACHE
/ BURY YOUR DEAD guided tour of Quebec City is now available. We've been
working with a top walking tour company in the venerable
old city, Tours Voir Quebec, and are very happy to endorse
this. The good people of the Literary and Historical
Society (Morrin Centre) are also onboard. It's available
in either English or French. Here's
the link. Bon voyage et Vive Gamache!
At the start of Agatha-winner Penny's moving and powerful
sixth Chief Insp. Armand Gamache mystery (after 2009's
The Brutal Telling), Gamache is recovering from a physical
and emotional trauma, the exact nature of which isn't
immediately disclosed, in Québec City. When the
body of Augustin Renaud, an eccentric who'd spent his
life searching for the burial site of Samuel de Champlain,
Québec's founder, turns up in the basement of
the Literary and Historical Society, Gamache reluctantly
gets involved in the murder inquiry. Meanwhile, Gamache
dispatches his longtime colleague, Insp. Jean Guy Beauvoir,
to the quiet town of Three Pines to revisit the case
supposedly resolved at the end of the previous book.
Few writers in any genre can match Penny's ability to
combine heartbreak and hope in the same scene. Increasingly
ambitious in her plotting, she continues to create characters
readers would want to meet in real life.
People Magazine (4 out of 4 stars) 'editor's pick'!
Her beautifully elegiac sixth book interweaves three
story lines while plumbing the depths of Gamache's grief.
The result is sophisticated and moving - her best yet.
Pennys first five crime novels in her Armand Gamache
series have all been outstanding, but her latest is
the best yet, a true tour de force of storytelling
hits every note perfectly in what is one of the most
elaborately constructed and remarkably moving mysteries
Gamache's excruciating grief over a wrong decision,
Beauvoir's softening toward the unconventional, a plot
twist so unexpected it's chilling, and a description
of Québec intriguing enough to make you book
your next vacation there, all add up to a superior read.
Bring on the awards.
Superb...brilliantly provocative and will appeal to
fans of literary fiction, as well as to mystery lovers.
BookPage, in the US, had named BURY YOUR DEAD
their Mystery of the Month for October
Bury Your Dead has received more pre-release praise
than any suspense novel in recent memory; I was a little
skeptical at first, but I am here to tell you that itis
well deserving of every word. And then some!
Toronto Globe and Mail
. . . Louise Pennys portrait of Quebec City is
as lovingly detailed and evocative as anything she has
written, and her control over this intricate blending
of history and mystery is absolute. Furthermore, the
deepening of Gamaches character is profoundly
satisfying. The book, obviously, is a must-read for
her fans, and demonstrates once again that she is in
the first rank of crime-fiction writers in Canada, or
indeed, in the world.
is coming, old son.
those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered.
As families prepare to head back to the city and
children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is
found murdered in the village bistro and antiques
store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and
his team are called in to strip back layers of
lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets
buried in the wilderness.
No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but
as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close
in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did
he make such a spectacular success of his business?
What past did he leave behind and why has he buried
himself in this tiny village? And why does every
lead in the investigation find its way back to
Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and
treasures from first editions of Charlottes
Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word
WOE woven in it lead the Chief Inspector
deep into the woods and across the continent in
search of the truth, and finally back to Three
Pines as the little village braces for the truth
and the final, brutal telling.
The Agatha Award for Best Traditional Mystery,
2009 (for the unprecedented 3rd time)
Winner, The Anthony Award for Best Novel, 2009
Barnes and Noble Recommends Main Selection
NY Times bestseller for three weeks
USA Today bestseller for 2009
Entertainment Weekly bestseller for 2009
Chosen by the prestigious Dorothy L as best novel
American Library Association (ALA) Selection for
Best Mystery 2009
The Globe and Mail, top mystery of 2009
Booklist - top ten Mystery for 2009
Booklist - top ten Audiobook for 2009
Audiofile - Ear-Phones Award for 2009
Golden Archer Award for Best Mystery from the
Journal Sentinel. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A Great Read by the American Booksellers Association
(ABA) in their IndyNext pics
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA)
bestseller list for September
Mystery Salon Blog, Best Book of 2009
Strand Magazine, top Mystery of 2009
Finalist, Dilys Award of the Independent Mystery
Booksellers of America (IMBA)
Finalist for The Macavity Award for Best Novel,
The Brutal Telling
Canada / UK / Commonwealth
The Brutal Telling
Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon
...Penny isn't Christie. For one thing she's a far more
accomplished craftsman, relying more on depth of character
than formula. She also likes a complex plot that owes
more to human emotion and psychology than to clockwork
timing. This puts her closer to PD James....The best
Gamache novel so far.
Daily Mirror 4 stars out of five, Henry
The Canadian village of Three Pines is given a shocking
awakening when a stranger is found dead in the local
bistro. But soon Chief Inspector Gamache discovers the
bistro owner had a shady past. Brilliant.
Bookbag 4.5 stars out of five
It's Louise Penny's writing which adds a glow to this
book. It's not just the skill of the plot, but the way
that words are never wasted and that so few of them
can produce a vivid picture. Dialogue is perfect and
there's a real talent for capturing the one-liners which
make you laugh out loud.
Shots Mag, Mike Stotter
I have always been dismissive of the expression "I
couldn't put it down", but after reading Louise
Penny's latest story of the idyllic French Canadian
village of Three Pines I acknowledge that there is some
truth in it. I read this book in one session, anxious
to reach the unravelling of a complex plot dealing with
mystery, artistic integrity, murder, of course, and
Book Blog The Editor's Notebook
Ive got to that stage in The Brutal Telling by
Louise Penny, where I want to finish so that I know
the outcome but Im enjoying it so much that I
dont want it to end.
People Magazine 3 1/2 out of 4 stars
With an intricate, almost mythic plot, superb characters
and rich, dark humor Penny - a former journalist with
the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who has garnered
multiple awards for the series' four previous novels
- continues to deepen and modernize the traditional
"village mystery". Her courtly, poetry-loving
Inspector Gamache, who peers into suspects' souls over
meals so mouthwatering you'll want to book a flight,
contributes a humane and sophisticated perspective on
Penny (A Rule Against Murder, 2009, etc.) is a world-class
storyteller. If you dont want to move to Montreal
with Gamache as your neighboror better yet, relocate
to Three Pines and be welcomed into its community of
eccentrics - you have sawdust in your veins, which must
be very uncomfortable.
Penny has only gotten better with each succeeding
novel. Her fifth in the series is the finest of all
literary mystery explores the ways in which sins of
the past have a way of resurrecting themselves, wreaking
havoc upon their perpetrators, and, unfortunately, the
. Fortunately, sagacious Gamache possesses
the acumen to peel away the layers of deceit and to
expose the truth. This superb novel will appeal to readers
who enjoy sophisticated literary mysteries
Penny has been compared to Agatha Christie, and while
there is a surface resemblance there, it sells her short.
Her characters are too rich, her grasp of nuance and
human psychology too firm for the formula-bound Christie.
No, Penny belongs in the hands of those who read not
only P. D. James but also Donna Leon, who, like Penny,
mixes her heros family and professional lives
fluidly and with a subtle grasp of telling detail.
When the body of an unknown old man turns up in a bistro
in Agatha-winner Pennys excellent fifth mystery
set in the Quebec village of Three Pines (after Jan.
2009s A Rule Against Murder), Chief Insp. Armand
Gamache investigates. At a cabin in the woods apparently
belonging to the dead man, Gamache and his team are
shocked to discover the remote building is full of priceless
antiquities, from first edition books to European treasures
thought to have disappeared during WWII. When suspicion
falls on one of Three Pines most prominent citizens,
its up to Gamache to sift through the lies and
uncover the truth. Though Gamache is undeniably the
focus, Penny continues to develop her growing cast of
supporting characters, including newcomers Marc and
Dominique Gilbert, who are converting an old house-the
site of two murdersinto a spa. Readers keen for
another glimpse into the life of Three Pines will be
Joseph Beth bookstores, Cincinnati, Ohio, Micheal
I was prepared to be vastly entertained by a witty,
sometimes funny and intricately plotted mystery whose
solution always lies in the hearts of men and the ability
of Gamache to suss out what lies within
not prepared for this compelling and unflinching look
into the heart of darkness that resides within us all.
It is a universal truth that we can never fully know
another human being and many times, not even ourselves.
But Penny shows us a unique insight into the very "black
box" of her characters
This is a terrific
read if you like mysteries but it is also a stunning
look at our universal condition. In a brutal telling
itself, Penny connects us with our own humanity as well
as others. She shows us the fragility of our existence
and that even living within the pale doesn't exempt
us and we can have everything taken away in a very short
Nick News, Linda Ellerbee, Journalist, Author
Louise Penny's mysteries have evolved into world-class
novels. "The Brutal Telling" is rich in atmosphere,
hip-deep in character, beautifully written and superbly
imagined. Plus an astonishing ending! Who could ask
for anything more?
Aunt Agathas Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Robin
These books are an assurance in the face of a sometimes
harsh world that goodness does, indeed, exist, and that
may partly explain the passion Penny seems to inspire
in her readers. With almost every word, she gives you
something to hope for....this book may be her best yet,
and that is saying a lot.
Meanderings and Muses blog, Kaye Barley
I was one of the lucky winners of an Advance Reading
Copy of THE BRUTAL TELLING, and have to tell you - it
is stunning. I'm shouting about it all over the place,
and I'm already quite sure it will be in my Top Five
Favorite Books of 2009. Add this to your "Gotta
Wealthy, cultured and respectable, the Finney
family is the epitome of gentility. When Irene
Finney and her four grown-up children arrive at
the Manoir Bellechasse in the heat of summer,
the hotel's staff spring into action. For the
children have come to this idyllic lakeside retreat
for a special occasion - a memorial has been organised
to pay tribute to their late father. But as the
heat wave gathers strength, it is not just the
statue of an old man that is unveiled. Old secrets
and bitter rivalries begin to surface, and the
morning after the ceremony, a body is found. The
family has another member to mourn.
guest at the hotel, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache
suddenly finds himself in the middle of a murder
enquiry. The hotel is full of possible suspects
- even the Manoir's staff have something to hide,
and it's clear that the victim had many enemies.
With its remote location, the lodge is a place
where visitors come to escape their pasts. Until
the past catches up with them...
New York Times Bestseller
The Globe and Mail's 2008 Mystery of the Year
Booklist - Top Ten Mystery of the Year
Finalist Arthur Ellis Award (Canada)
An IndieNext pick (formerly BookSense) for February
New York Times, Marilyn Stasio
Louise Penny applies her magic touch to A RULE
AGAINST MURDER (Minotaur, $24.95), giving the
village mystery an elegance and depth not often
seen in this traditional genre. Although Penny
is no slouch at constructing a whodunit puzzle,
her great skill is her ability to create a charming
mise-en-scène and inhabit it with complex
Theres something otherworldly and altogether
enchanting about the Manoir Bellechasse, the magnificent
lodge in the Canadian wilderness where Chief Inspector
Armand Gamache, the head of homicide for the Sûreté
du Québec, has taken his wife for their
35th wedding anniversary. Not only does the auberge
offer grand views and the order and calm of old-world
service, but it also observes a no-kill policy,
with the proprietors feeding wild animals in winter
and forbidding guests to hunt or fish. Someone
obviously failed to explain that rule to the cultured
but quarrelsome family holding a reunion to unveil
a statue of their late patriarch, who makes his
feelings felt by toppling down on one of his own.
As Gamache observes, things were not as they seemed,
not even in a paradise like Bellechasse. And never
in a Louise Penny mystery.
A Rule Against Murder
The Murder Stone
Canada / UK / Commonwealth
A Rule Against Murder Louise Penny, read by Ralph
Cosham. Blackstone, unabridged, nine CDs, 11 hrs.
Celebrated British narrator and actor Ralph Cosham brings
this wonderful murder mystery to life and draws in listeners
with his charisma. Penny's taut, darkly comedic tale
features the Finney family, which has gathered for the
installation of a statue of their long-dead patriarch.
When the statue falls and kills one of his daughters,
Insp. Armand Gamache (Cosham at his very best) must
unravel the plot before it's too late. Cosham's characters
are refreshingly original and never overplayed, and
the Old World quality of his voice invokes radio murder
mysteries from decades past, creating an endlessly entertaining
Australian Women's Weekly
Beautiful imagery, deft characterisation and deliciously
Louise Penny's village whodunits make perfect beach
reading for this summer
To say this book has an old-fashioned feel is not to
denigrate it.There is nothing hard-boiled about Armand:
he's a man who loves his family, is loyal and decent...
once the narrative is underway, its smooth patient flow
carries the reader with it to the last
Cleveland Plain Dealer
MURDER is a fine read, as Penny illuminates her characters
in subtle strokes.
Once again, Penny concocts an intricate and intriguing
plot and peoples it with credible characters and the
continually fascinating Gamache... and her writing is
lovely, powerful and uniquely imaginative, prose that
approaches the poetic... No murder would be complete,
of course, without death. But in Penny's caring hands,
the focus in A RULE AGAINST MURDER - as it is in all
of this profoundly humane series - is on life, and on
life made richer by the author's deep sense of decency.
An ingenious, impossible crime puzzle for the reader
. . .
An IndieNext pick (formerly BookSense) for
Mystery Reader (five out of five stars)
Louise Penny has created in her Inspector Gamache series
a clever combination of a police procedural and cozy
. The setting itself is reminiscent
of the golden age of mysteries
.Indeed this novel
is a classic locked room mystery
.Ms. Penny has
a superb command of the English language
mystery author, Ms. Penny plays fair with her readers
Rule Against Murder should go on everyones reading
The Charlotte Observer (4 out of 4 stars)
At least two people are waiting very impatiently for
this review to be done so I can pass the new Louise
Penny along to them. With just her fourth book, she
already has that kind of (well-deserved) following...
Starred Library Journal
Canadian author Penny has garnered numerous awards for
her elegant literary mysteries featuring the urbane
Armand Gamache, chief police inspector from Quebec.
Gamache is intelligent, observant, and implacable, indispensible
attributes for the sophisticated detection that characterizes
this series....Pennys engaging, well-crafted mystery
probes the dynamics of a severely dysfunctional family
and the festering wounds that lead to its ultimate destruction.
Her psychological acumen, excellent prose, and ingenious
plotting make this essential reading for mystery lovers
and admirers of superb literary fiction. Fans of Dorothy
L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Elizabeth George will also
Readers who havent discovered Louise Penny and
her Armand Gamache series yet are in for a treat
only are we treated to Pennys usual rich characterizations,
but the atmospheric and beautiful language will make
you want to take your next vacation at the manoir
of the best traditional mystery series currently being
This latest treat in the series (The Cruelest Month,
2008, etc.) will keep fans salivating in anticipation,
savoring each delectable morsel and yearning for more.
Murder interrupts Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his
wifes annual summer holiday at Quebecs isolated,
lake-front Manoir Bellechasse in Agatha-winner Pennys
intriguing, well-crafted fourth mystery....Seamless,
often lyrical prose artfully reveals the characters
flaws, dreams and blessings.
Hamilton Spectator, Don Graves
The Murder Stone is one of the best works of fiction
I've read this year. It's a serious novel that bridges
the gap between the mystery genre and mainstream fiction....Louise
Penny's fourth novel is an enduring mystery that begins
and ends with the qualities that make great fiction
writing -- compelling storytelling, evocative descriptions
that are the heart of the story -- and characters (the
novel's soul) who are rich in qualities and foibles
that make them unforgettable -- and capable of murder.
Time Out London
. . . it's not all shudders and suspense: a terrific
scene of a child teaching an adult to throw sticky biscuits
at the manoir's ceiling offers giggle-inducing comic
Montreal Review of Books
The plotting is flawless and when the murderer is
finally revealed in a thrilling climactic scene...we
realize that there were plenty of clever clues along
Toronto Globe and Mail
Four stories and four seasons on, Louise Penny's Chief
Inspector Armand Gamache series gets better with each
book. Penny has found her perfect formula with the carefully
constructed puzzle plot in the perfect village with
the classic cast of characters. The fact that it's modern
Quebec is the icing on the petit four....Once the puzzle
is set up, it's impossible to put this book down until
it's solved. Devotees of Christie will be delighted
by Penny's clever plots and deft characters.
The Irish News
....In a traditional who-dunnit crime thriller that
rivals Agatha Christie's Poirot, Gamache is a refreshing
alternative to the hard-nosed stereotypical detective. Penny
builds the lives and imperfections of the characters
effectively, exposing the complexity of human nature,
challenging the reader's opinion and creating a constant
sense of suspicion.This is a classic tale that proves
that revenge is a dish best served ice cold. Rating
Sleuth of Baker Street, Marian
THE MURDER STONE...is excellent. You have to read
it....Just how she manages to make every word of every
book so perfect, I just don't know
The Guardian, Laura Wilson
The red herrings are expertly deployed, and the
solution is ingenious and unexpected
Marie Claire Magazine - UK, Eithne Farry
When the privileged offspring of the Finney family get
together at the luxurious Manoir Bellechasse to commemorate
their dead father, family tensions are let loose. When
one of their number is killed in unusual circumstances,
its up to the charming Inspector Armand Gamache
to delve beneath the sibling rivalries, bitter jealousies
and outsider envy to solve the devious crime in this
super-smart, hauntingly subtle murder mystery. Rating
**** (out of 4)
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind Pick of the
Week, Sarah Weinman
Decades from now, I suspect we'll look upon the
works of Louise Penny and find all sorts of marvels
that show how well and why the books hold up....The
temptation is to scarf Penny's books like potato chips
but it's ever wise to savor each bite and let the flavors
fill your tongue.
Easter in Three Pines is a time of church services,
egg hunts and seances to raise the dead.
A group of friends trudges up to the Old Hadley
House, the horror on the hill, to finally rid
it of the evil spirits that have so obviously
plagued it, and the village, for decades.
But instead of freeing a spirit, they create a
new one. One of their numbers dies
of fright. Or was it murder?
Enter Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team
from the Surete du Quebec. As they peel
back the layers of flilth and artiface that have
covered the haunted old home, they discover the
evil isn't confined there. Some evil is
guiding the actions of one of the seemingly kindly
But Gamache has a horror all his own to confront.
A very personal demon is about to strike.
Easter in Three Pines. A time
of rebirth, when nature comes alive. But
something very unpleasant has also come alive.
And it become clear - for there to be a rebirth,
there first must be a death.
Award for Best Traditional Mystery, 2008 (USA)
Finalist Anthony Award for Best Mystery, 2008
Finalist Macavity Award for Best Mystery, 2008
Finalist Barry Award for Best Mystery, 2008 (USA)
Finalist Arthur Ellis Award for Best Mystery,
Debuted as #1 on the IMBA Bestsellers list in
Charlotte Observor, Salem Macknee
If I thought for one minute this place really
existed, I would be packing the car. As it was,
on finishing "The Cruelest Month," I
grabbed the first two books, "Still Life"
and "A Fatal Grace," and spent a lovely
weekend in the village. The mouthwatering food,
the beautiful gardens, the quirky and literate
villagers -- Three Pines is a charming oasis for
the spirit....it's more about the journey than
the destination in these wonderful books full
of poetry, and weather, and a brooding manor house,
and people who read and think and laugh and eat
a lot of really excellent food.
Move over, Mitford.
The Cruelest Month
Canada / UK / Commonwealth
People Magazine (3 1/2 out of 4 stars)
Impossible to put down!
There's real pleasure here.
Perhaps the deftest talent to arrive since Minette
Walters, Penny produces what many have tried but few
have mastered: a psychologically acute cozy. If you
don't give your heart to Gamache, you may have no heart
Chief Insp. Armand Gamache and his team investigate
another bizarre crime in the tiny Québec village
of Three Pines in Penny's expertly plotted third cozy
Ellis Award-winner Penny paints a vivid picture of the
French-Canadian village, its inhabitants and a determined
detective who will strike many Agatha Christie fans
as a 21st-century version of Hercule Poirot.
Gamache is an engaging, modern-day Poirot who gently
teases out information from his suspects while enjoying
marvelous bistro meals and cozy walks on the village
Penny is an award-winning writer whose cozies
go beyond traditional boundaries, providing entertaining
characters, a picturesque locale, and thought-provoking
plots. Highly recommended.
and Quire, Sarah Weinman
Penny shines most in revealing Gamache's frailties....As
Penny demonstrates with laser-like precision, the book's
title is a metaphor not only for the month of April
but also for Gamache's personal and professional challenges
- making this the series standout so far.
Reading, Australia - four stars
Penny's real skill is creating a dense, possibilities
rich atmosphere....Impressive writing
Mystery News, 5 of 5 quills, Lynn Kaczmarek
Influenced by Simenon, Christie and Sayers before
her, Penny is doing them all one better. ... These
books are so much more than traditional mysteriesthe
writing is sublime and the characters unique yet much
more developed than their individual quirks. ...And
this place, this wonderous, fantastical place.
Youre just incredibly thankful that it exists,
if only in the brilliant mind of Louise Penny....behold
the ushering in of a new era of traditional mysteries21st
For such a small, pleasant place, the Quebec village
of Three Pines has a surprising amount of big-time crime. In the third Armand Gamache novel, the Surete
Chief Inspector is once again confronted with a baffling
mystery, this one coming after an Easter séance
results in murder. The thing about the Gamache novels
is that while the crimes are intriguing, the people
are downright fascinating not just Gamache himself,
who manages to be completely original despite his similarities
to Columbo and Poirot, but also the entire cast of supporting
characters, who are so strongly written that every single
one of them could probably carry an entire novel all
by themselves. Readers familiar with the preceding two
novels in the series Still Life (2006) and A Fatal Grace
(2007) will be champing at the bit to get their hands
on this one, and those who havent yet met Armand
Gamache will wonder what took them so long.
The Calgary Herald, Joanne Sasvari
Penny...has created a world that is clever, complex
and gorgeously written.
The London Times, Marcel Berlins
A neat mystery!
The Sunday Telegraph, Susanna Yager
Just the thing for a gloomy Autumn day...the enjoyment
of a stirring tale of jealousy and long-awaited revenge.
The Sherbrooke Record, James Napier
With the publication of The Cruellest Month, Louise
Penny has come of age as a novelist. The writing
is sensual, full of sights and smells and tastes that
will resonate with her readers. And although Penny
paints an almost Grandma Moses idealized view of village
life, it is a view tinged with ominous foreboding, reminiscent
of the brooding images of Breughel and Bosch....It's
Morning Herald, Australia - Pick of the Week
Readers on the lookout for a good crime writer are in
for a treat...Penny's writing is rich in imagery and
atmosphere and characterised by a very quick and highly
Winter in Three Pines and the sleepy village is
carpeted in snow. It's a time of peace and goodwill
- until a scream pierces the biting air. There's
been a murder.
police are baffled. A spectator at the annual
Boxing Day curling match has been fatally electrocuted.
Despite the large crowd, there are no witnesses
and - apparently - no clues.
in to head the investigation, Chief Inspector
Armand Gamache unravels the dead woman's past
and discovers a history of secrets and enemies.
But Gamache has enemies of his own. Frozen out
of decision-making at the highest level of the
Surete du Quebec, Gamache finds there are few
he can trust. As a bitter wind blows into Three
Pines, something even more chilling is sneaking
up behind him...
COLD launched May 2007 in the US, under the title
A FATAL GRACE.
Award for Best Traditional Mystery, 2007 (USA)
The Sunday Times, Culture Magazine, Audio Book
of the Week, May 6, 2007
Named one of the best books 2007, Deadly Pleasures
American Booksellers Association Book Sense, Notable
Book, June 2007
Book List, Rising Star, June 2007
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA)
a 'Killer Book' for May 2007
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA)
bestseller, September 2007
Finalist for the 2007 American Library Association
book of the year
Finalist for an AUDIE AWARD for BEST MYSTERY BOOK
Bestseller lists in the US, Australia and Canada
Remarkably, Penny manages to top her outstanding
debut. Gamache is a prodigiously complicated and
engaging hero, destined to become one of the classic
A highly intelliegent mystery. Penny's
new title is sure to creat great reader demand
for more stories featuring civilized and articulate
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
Fatal Grace /Dead Cold
Fatal Grace /Dead Cold
Canada / UK / Commonwealth
Gamache, a smart and likable investigator - think
Columbo with an accent, or perhaps a modern-day Poirot....This
is a fine mystery in the classic Agatha Christie style
and it is sure to leave mainstream fans wanting more.
Houston Chronicle P.G. Koch
For all the perplexing mechanics of the murder,
and the snowed-in village setting, this is not the usual
"cosy" or even a traditional puzzle mystery.
It's a finely written, intelligent and observant book.
Imbued with a constant awareness of the astonishing
cold, this perfect blend of police procedural and closed-room
mystery finds its solution, as in the best of those
traditions, in the slow unlayering of a sorrowful past.
Manly Daily, Australia
Quebec's answer to Poirot and Morse.
Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin, Australia
South Coast Register, Australia
A poetic and gifted writer.
The Ottawa Citizen, Mike Gillespie
Penny writes like a modern-day Agatha Christie,
with a little Dylan Thomas thrown in for good measure.
Her characters leap from the page, her plotting is sublime,
the atmosphere she builds in a bitter Quebec winter
in Dead Cold, completely chilling.
Web, UK, Bernard Knight
Surete Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is in danger
of turning into a latter-day Hercule Poirot....The writing
is superb. A magnificent read.
The Calgary Herald, Joanne Sasvari
A wonderfully quirky, beautifully written story set
amid the eccentric residents of charming Three Pines,
Quebec. With DEAD COLD Penny has firmly established
herself among the best in Canadian crime fiction....Like
all the best Canadian fiction, DEAD COLD is a brilliant
evocation of place. And like Gamache, you too will be
drawn to Three Pines and to this work of magical realism
masquerading as a cosy English mystery.
The Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon
A beautifully crafted Christmas cracker of a novel.
We're back in the charming Quebec village of Three Pines....The
setting is wonderfully done, as are the characters.
The solution is perfectly in tune with their psychology
and there's plenty of evidence that Gamache will make
a third appearance.
The Halifax Chronicle Herald, Paul Fiander
Louise Penny stunned the crime fiction world last year
with STILL LIFE....Sooner or later the whole world will
discover Penny. With a unique sense of timing, patience
and subtle wit, Penny is able to create a whodunit that
recalls those of Agatha Christie....Magically bringing
the postcard village of Three Pines to life, she gives
it innocence, allows a touch of evil to intrude and
then brings in the outsider, the intriguing Gamache,
to solve the crime.
The plots against Gamache made me feel like a pantomime
audience shouting 'look behind you', while the unsympathetic
characters are so vividly drawn that they, in turn,
provoked sotto voce boos... (A five star review)
The Sherbrooke Record, Jim Napier
DEAD COLD is a richer, darker book, with humour and
a sub-plot that builds on relationships only hinted
at in her debut novel. The result is an engrossing read
that will only add to the ranks of her readers.
and Quire Literary Magazine, Canada
Louise Penny received a great deal of praise from some
very impressive sources for her first novel, STILL LIFE.
After reading DEAD COLD, her second effort, I can safely
say that much more praise is on its way
reader will regret the time they spend in the snowy
village of Three Pines.
This is a wonderful novel, full of mystery. It is as
deeply layered as snow drifting down upon snow. The
cold will seep into your bones so wrap up warm and have
a good hot drink at your elbow.
As the early morning mist clears
on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines
come to life - all except one
locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are
bewildered when a well-loved member of the community
is found lying dead in the maple woods. Surely
it was an accident - a hunter's arrow gone astray.
Who could want Jane Neal dead?
a long and distinguished career with the Sûreté
du Quebec, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has
learned to look for snakes in Eden. Gamache knows
something dark is lurking behind the white picket
fences, and if he watches closely enough, Three
Pines will begin to give up its secrets
New Blood (Creasey) Dagger (2006) of the Crimewriters
The Arthur Ellis Award (2006) of the Crime Writers
of Canada (Canada)
The Dilys Award (2007) of the Independent Mystery
Bookstore Association (USA)
The Anthony Award (2007) (USA)
The Barry Award (2007) (USA)
Kirkus Review: a Top Ten Mystery of 2007
DorothyL Best Mystery Novel of 2007
Bestseller lists in Canada and the IMBA
Finalist for The Barry Award for Best Mystery
Book of the Decade
I-Tunes (Canada): Top AudioBook of 2011
New York Times Sunday Book Review, Marilyn Stasio
The beauty of Louise Penny's auspicious debut
novel, STILL LIFE, is that it's composed entirely
of grace notes, all related to the central mystery
of who shot an arrow into the heart of Miss Jane
But, like her neighbors in the picturesque
Canadian village of Three Pines, the dear old
thing had hidden depths, courtesy of an author
whose deceptively simple style masks the complex
patterns of a well-devised plot
Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec,
who is as bemused as we are by life in Three Pines,
has the wit and insight to look well beyond its
Canada / UK / Commonwealth
Tribune, Crime watch, Dick Adler
It's hard to decide what provides the most pleasure in
this enjoyable book: Gamache, a shrewd and kindly man
constantly surprised by homicide; the village, which sounds
at first like an ideal place to escape from civilization;
or the clever and carefully constructed plot.
Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined
for stardom. Don't miss this stellar debut.
Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on
the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight. Filled
with unexpected insights, this winning traditional mystery
sets a solid foundation for future entries in the series.
Booklist, Emily Melton
This is a real gem of a book that slowly draws the reader
into a beautifully told, lyrically written story of
love, life, friendship and tragedy.
The Library Journal, USA
Debut novelist Penny writes poignantly about life in
a small hamlet
A first-rate creator of memorable
characters, Penny introduces a truly engaging sleuth
in Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, who is sent to investigate
and in the process falls in love with Three Pines and
London Times, Marcel Berlins
An impressive debut novel
Penny writes with intelligence
.the result is a first novel promising
much enjoyment to come.
DearReader.com, Suzanne Beecher
A wonderful murder mystery.
Shelf Awareness, Marilyn Dahl
Louise Penny has written an extremely satisfying mystery,
one that will please on many levels
this book touches
the heart while engaging the mind. Miss Jane Neal kept
a well-read book on her nightstand, C.S. Lewis' Surprised
by Joy. That title is a fitting phrase for Still
Aunt Agatha's Bookstore, Ann Arbour, Robin
This is an elegantly written, compelling, and masterful
first novel. If I were a betting woman I'd advise anyone
interested in such things to lay aside a first edition;
I plan to myself
If there is a more perfect novel
written this year, I would be very much surprised.
The Toronto Globe and Mail, Margaret
Ever since Agatha Christie, we long for that perfect
village that is touched by death. Three Pines delivers.
Toronto Star, Jack Batten
A delightful and clever collection of false leads,
red herrings, meditations on human nature, strange behavior
and other diverting stuff.
The Calgary Herald, Joanne Sasvari,
This is a much darker, cleverer, funnier and, finally,
more hopeful novel than even the great Dame Agatha could
have penned. It's light, witty and poignant, a thrilling
debut from a new Canadian crime writer.
THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY (Chapter
As the last note of
the chant escaped the Blessed Chapel a great silence fell, and with it
came an even greater disquiet.
The silence stretched
on. And on.
These were men used
to silence, but this seemed extreme, even to them.
And still they stood
in their long black robes and white tops, motionless.
These were men also
used to waiting. But this too seemed extreme.
The less disciplined
among them stole glances at the tall, slim, elderly man who had been the
last to file in and would be the first to leave.
Dom Philippe kept
his eyes closed. Where once this was a moment of profound peace, a private
moment with his private God, when Vigils had ended and before he signaled
for the Angelus, now it was simply escape.
He closed his eyes
because he didnt want to see.
Besides, he knew what
was there. What was always there. What had been there for hundreds of
years before he arrived and would, God willing, be there for centuries
after he was buried in the cemetery. Two rows of men across from him,
in black robes with white hoods, a simple rope tied at their waists.
And beside him to
his right, two more rows of men.
They were facing each
other across the stone floor of the chapel, like ancient battle lines.
No, he told his weary
mind. No. I mustnt think of this as a battle, or a war. Just opposing
points of view. Expressed in a healthy community.
Then why was he so
reluctant to open his eyes? To get the day going?
To signal the great
bells that would ring the Angelus to the forests and birds and lakes and
fish. And the monks. To the angels and all the saints. And God.
A throat cleared.
In the great silence
it sounded like a bomb. And to the abbots ears it sounded like what
With an effort he
continued to keep his eyes closed. He remained still, and quiet. But there
was no peace anymore. Now there was only turmoil, inside and out. He could
feel it, vibrating from and between the two rows of waiting men.
He could feel it vibrating
Dom Philippe counted
to one hundred. Slowly. Then opening his blue eyes, he stared directly
across the chapel, to the short, round man who stood with his eyes open,
his hands folded on his stomach, a small smile on his endlessly patient
The abbots eyes
narrowed slightly, in a glare, then he recovered and raising his slim
right hand, he signaled. And the bells began.
The perfect, round,
rich toll left the bell tower and took off into the early morning darkness.
It skimmed over the clear lake, the forests, the rolling hills. To be
heard by all sorts of creatures.
And twenty-four men,
in a remote monastery in Québec.
A clarion call. Their
day had begun.
* * *
not serious, laughed Jean-Guy Beauvoir.
nodded Annie. I swear to God its the truth.
Are you telling
me, he picked up another piece of maple-cured bacon from the platter,
that your father gave your mother a bathmat as a gift when they
first started dating?
No, no. That
would be ridiculous.
he agreed and ate the bacon in two big bites. In the background an old
Beau Dommage album was playing. La complainte du phoque en Alaska.
About a lonely seal whose love had disappeared. Beauvoir hummed quietly
to the familiar tune.
He gave it to
my grandmother the first time they met, as a hostess gift, thanking her
for inviting him to dinner.
He never told me that, he finally managed.
Well, Dad doesnt
exactly mention it in polite conversation. Poor Mom. Felt she had to marry
him. After all, who else would have him?
Beauvoir laughed again.
So I guess the bar is set pretty low. I could hardly give you a
He reached down beside
the table in the sunny kitchen. Theyd made breakfast together that
Saturday morning. A platter of bacon and scrambled eggs with melted Brie
sat on the small pine table. Hed thrown on a sweater this early
autumn day and gone around the corner from Annies apartment to the
bakery on rue St-Denis for croissants and pain au chocolat. Then Jean-Guy
had wandered in and out of the local shops, picking up a couple of cafés,
the Montréal weekend papers, and something else.
you got there? Annie Gamache asked, leaning across the table. The
cat leapt to the ground and found a spot on the floor where the sun hit.
he grinned. Just a little je ne sais quoi I saw, and thought of
Beauvoir lifted it
into plain sight.
Annie said, and laughed. Its a toilet plunger.
With a bow on
it, said Beauvoir. Just for you, ma chère. Weve
been together for three months. Happy anniversary.
Of course, the
toilet plunger anniversary. And I got you nothing.
I forgive you,
Annie took the plunger.
Ill think of you every time I use it. Though I think youll
be the one using it most of the time. You are full of it, after all.
said Beauvoir, ducking his head in a small bow.
She thrust the plunger
forward, gently prodding him with the red rubber suction cup as though
it was a rapier and she the swordsman.
Beauvoir smiled and
took a sip of his rich, aromatic café. So like Annie. Where other
women might have pretended the ridiculous plunger was a wand, she pretended
it was a sword.
Of course, Jean-Guy
realized, he would never have given a toilet plunger to any other woman.
You lied to
me, she said, sitting back down. Dad obviously told you about
admitted Beauvoir. We were in Gaspé, in a poachers
cabin, searching for evidence when your father opened a closet and found
not one but two brand-new bathmats, still in their wrapping.
As he spoke he looked
at Annie. Her eyes never left him, barely blinked. She took in every word,
every gesture, every inflection. Enid, his ex-wife, had also listened.
But there was always an edge of desperation about it, a demand. As though
he owed her. As though she was dying and he was the medicine.
Enid left him drained,
and yet still feeling inadequate.
But Annie was gentler.
Like her father, she
listened carefully and quietly.
With Enid he never
talked about his work, and she never asked. With Annie he told her everything.
Now, while putting
strawberry confiture on the warm croissant, he told her about the poachers
cabin, about the case, the savage murder of a family. He told her what
they found, how they felt, and who they arrested.
turned out to be the key pieces of evidence, said Beauvoir, lifting
the croissant to his mouth. Though it took us a long time to figure
Is that when
Dad told you about his own sad history with bathmats?
Beauvoir nodded and
chewed and saw the Chief Inspector in the dim cabin. Whispering the story.
They werent sure when the poacher would return, and they didnt
want to be caught there. They had a search warrant, but they didnt
want him to know that. So as the two homicide investigators deftly searched,
Chief Inspector Gamache had told Beauvoir about the bathmat. Of showing
up for one of the most important meals of his life, desperate to impress
the parents of the woman hed fallen hopelessly in love with. And
somehow deciding a bathmat was the perfect hostess gift.
How could you
have thought that, sir? Beauvoir had whispered, glancing out the
cracked and cobwebbed window, hoping not to see the shabby poacher returning
with his kill.
Gamache had paused, obviously trying to recall his own thinking. Madame
Gamache often asks the same question. Her mother never tired of asking
either. Her father, on the other hand, decided I was an imbecile and never
mentioned it again. That was worse. When they died we found the bathmat
in their linen closet, still in its plastic wrapping, with the card attached.
Beauvoir stopped talking
and looked across at Annie. Her hair was still damp from the shower theyd
shared. She smelled fresh and clean. Like a citron grove in the warm sunshine.
No makeup. She wore warm slippers and loose, comfortable clothing. Annie
was aware of fashion, and happy to be fashionable. But happier to be comfortable.
She was not slim.
She was not a stunning beauty. Annie Gamache was none of the things hed
always found attractive in a woman. But Annie knew something most people
never learn. She knew how great it was to be alive.
It had taken him almost
forty years, but Jean-Guy Beauvoir finally understood it too. And knew
now there was no greater beauty.
Annie was approaching
thirty now. Shed been a gawky teenager when theyd first met.
When the Chief Inspector had brought Beauvoir into his homicide division
at the Sûreté du Québec. Of the hundreds of agents
and inspectors under the Chiefs command, hed chosen this young,
brash agent no one else had wanted as his second in command.
Had made him part
of the team, and eventually, over the years, part of the family.
Though even the Chief
Inspector had no idea how much a part of the family Beauvoir had become.
said Annie with a wry smile, now we have our own bathroom story
to baffle our children with. When we die theyll find this, and wonder.
She held up the plunger,
with its cheery red bow.
dare say anything. Did Annie have any idea what shed just said?
The ease with which she assumed theyd have children. Grandchildren.
Would die together. In a home that smelled of fresh citron and coffee.
And had a cat curled around the sunshine.
Theyd been together
for three months and had never talked about the future. But hearing it
now, it just seemed natural. As though this was always the plan. To have
children. To grow old together.
Beauvoir did the math.
He was ten years older than her, and would almost certainly die first.
He was relieved.
But there was something
We need to tell
your parents, he said.
Annie grew quiet,
and picked at her croissant. I know. And its not like I dont
want to. But, she hesitated and looked around the kitchen, and out
into her book-lined living room, this is nice too. Just us.
Are you worried?
About how theyll
Annie paused and Jean-Guys
heart suddenly pounded. Hed expected her to deny it. To assure him
she wasnt the least bit worried whether her parents would approve.
But instead, shed
Maybe a little,
Annie admitted. Im sure theyll be thrilled, but it changes
things. You know?
He did know, but hadnt
dared admit it to himself. Suppose the Chief didnt approve? He could
never stop them, but it would be a disaster.
No, Jean-Guy told
himself for the hundredth time, itll be all right. The Chief and
Madame Gamache will be happy. Very happy.
But he wanted to be
sure. To know. It was in his nature. He collected facts for a living,
and this uncertainty was taking its toll. It was the only shadow in a
life suddenly, unexpectedly luminous.
He couldnt keep
lying to the Chief. Hed persuaded himself this wasnt a lie,
just keeping his private life private. But in his heart it felt like a
Do you really
think theyll be happy? he asked Annie, and hated the neediness
that had crept into his voice. But Annie either didnt notice or
She leaned toward
him, her elbows and forearms resting on the croissant flakes on the pine
table, and took his hand. She held it warm in hers.
To know were
together? My father would be so happy. Its my mother who hates you.
Seeing the look on
his face she laughed and squeezed his hand. Im kidding. She
adores you. Always has. They think of you as family, you know. As another
He felt his cheeks
burn, to hear those words, and felt ashamed, but noticed that once again
Annie didnt care, or comment. She just held his hand and looked
into his eyes.
Sort of incestuous,
then, he finally managed.
agreed, letting go of his hand to take a sip of café au lait. My
parents dream come true. She laughed, sipped, then set the
cup down again. You do know hell be thrilled.
Annie paused, thinking.
I think hell be stunned. Funny, isnt it? Dad spends
his life looking for clues, piecing things together. Gathering evidence.
But when somethings right under his nose, he misses it. Too close,
your father tells us, in homicide. One of the first lessons he teaches
A biblical quote?
asked Annie. But Mom and Dad never go to church.
learned it from his mentor when he first joined the Sûreté.
The phone rang. Not
the robust peal of the landline, but the cheerful, invasive trill of a
cell. It was Beauvoirs. He ran to the bedroom and grabbed it off
No number was displayed,
just a word.
He almost hit the
small green phone icon, then hesitated. Instead he strode out of the bedroom
and into Annies light-filled, book-filled living room. He couldnt
speak to the Chief standing in front of the bed where hed just that
morning made love to the Chiefs daughter.
he said, trying to sound casual.
Sorry to bother
you, came the familiar voice. It managed to be both relaxed and
Not at all,
sir. Whats up? Beauvoir glanced at the clock on the mantle.
It was 10:23 on a Saturday morning.
been a murder.
It wasnt, then,
a casual call. An invitation to dinner. A query about staffing or a case
going to trial. This was a call to arms. A call to action. A call that
marked something dreadful had happened. And yet, for more than a decade
now every time he heard those words, Beauvoirs heart leapt. And
raced. And even danced a little. Not with joy at the knowledge of a terrible
and premature death. But knowing he and the Chief and others would be
on the trail again.
loved his job. But now, for the first time, he looked into the kitchen,
and saw Annie standing in the doorway. Watching him.
And he realized, with
surprise, that he now loved something more.
Grabbing his notebook
he sat on Annies sofa and took down the details. When he finished
he looked at what hed written.
At the very
least, agreed Chief Inspector Gamache. Can you make arrangements,
please? And just the two of us for now. Well pick up a local Sûreté
agent when we arrive.
Should she come? Just to organize the Scene of Crime team and leave?
Chief Inspector Gamache
didnt hesitate. No. He gave a small laugh. Were
the Scene of Crime team, Im afraid. Hope you remember how to do
already packed my magnifying glass. There was a pause and a more
somber voice came down the line. We need to get there quickly, Jean-Guy.
Ill make a few calls and pick you up in fifteen minutes.
the way from downtown?
Beauvoir felt the
world stop for a moment. His small apartment was in downtown Montréal,
but Annies was in the Plateau Mont Royal quartier, a few blocks
from her parents home in Outremont. Its a Saturday.
Not much traffic.
Gamache laughed. Since
when did you become an optimist? Ill be waiting, whenever you arrive.
And he did, placing
calls, issuing orders, organizing. Then he threw a few clothes into an
a lot of underwear, said Annie, sitting on the bed. Are you
planning to be gone long? Her voice was light, but her manner wasnt.
Well, you know
me, he said, turning from her to slip his gun into its holder. She
knew he had it, but didnt like to actually see it. Even for a woman
who cherished reality, this was far too real. Without benefit of
plunger I might need more tighty whities.
She laughed, and he
At the door he stopped
and lowered his case to the ground.
he whispered into her ear, as he held her.
she whispered into his ear. Look after yourself, she said,
as they parted. And then, as he was halfway down the steps she called,
And please, look after my father.
I will. I promise.
Once he was gone and
she could no longer see the back of his car, Annie Gamache closed the
door and held her hand to her chest.
She wondered if this
was how her mother had felt, for all those years.
How her mother felt
at that very moment. Was she too leaning against the door, having watched
her heart leave? Having let it go.
Then Annie walked
over to the bookcases lining her living room. After a few minutes she
found what she was looking for. The bible her parents had given her, when
shed been baptized. For people who didnt attend church, they
still followed the rituals.
And she knew when
she had children shed want them baptized too. She and Jean-Guy would
present them with their own white bibles, with their names and baptism
She looked at the
thick first page. Sure enough, there was her name. Anne Daphné
Gamache. And a date. In her mothers hand. But instead of a cross
underneath her name her parents had drawn two little hearts.
Then Annie sat on
the sofa and sipping the now cool café she flipped through the
unfamiliar book until she found it.
And a mans
foes, she read out loud, shall be they of his own household.
THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY.
Copyright 2012 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.
A TRICK OF THE LIGHT (Chapter
Oh, no, no, no, thought Clara Morrow as she walked toward the closed doors.
She could see shadows,
shapes, like wraiths moving back and forth, back and forth across the
frosted glass. Appearing and disappearing. Distorted, but still human.
Still the dead one
The words had been
going through her head all day, appearing and disappearing. A poem, half
remembered. Words floating to the surface, then going under. The body
of the poem beyond her grasp.
What was the rest
It seemed important.
Oh, no no no.
The blurred figures
at the far end of the long corridor seemed almost liquid, or smoke. There,
but insubstantial. Fleeting. Fleeing.
As she wished she
This was it. The end
of the journey. Not just that days journey as she and her husband,
Peter, had driven from their little Québec village into the Musée
dArt Contemporain in Montréal, a place they knew well. Intimately.
How often had they come to the MAC to marvel at some new exhibition? To
support a friend, a fellow artist? Or to just sit quietly in the middle
of the sleek gallery, in the middle of a weekday, when the rest of the
city was at work?
Art was their work.
But it was more than that. It had to be. Otherwise, why put up with all
those years of solitude? Of failure? Of silence from a baffled and even
bemused art world?
She and Peter had
worked away, every day, in their small studios in their small village,
leading their tiny lives. Happy. But still yearning for more.
Clara took a few more
steps down the long, long, white marble hallway.
This was the more.
Through those doors. Finally. The end point of everything shed worked
toward, walked toward, all her life.
Her first dream as
a child, her last dream that morning, almost fifty years later, was at
the far end of the hard white hallway.
Theyd both expected
Peter would be the first through those doors. He was by far the more successful
artist, with his exquisite studies of life in close-up. So detailed, and
so close that a piece of the natural world appeared distorted and abstract.
Unrecognizable. Peter took what was natural and made it appear unnatural.
People ate it up.
Thank God. It kept food on the table and the wolves, while constantly
circling their little home in Three Pines, were kept from the door. Thanks
to Peter and his art.
Clara glanced at him
walking slightly ahead of her, a smile on his handsome face. She knew
most people, on first meeting them, never took her for his wife. Instead
they assumed some slim executive with a white wine in her elegant hand
was his mate. An example of natural selection. Of like moving to like.
artist with the head of graying hair and noble features could not possibly
have chosen the woman with the beer in her boxing glove hands. And the
pâté in her frizzy hair. And the studio full of sculptures
made out of old tractor parts and paintings of cabbages with wings.
No. Peter Morrow could
not have chosen her. That would have been unnatural.
And yet he had.
And she had chosen
Clara would have smiled
had she not been fairly certain she was about to throw up.
Oh, no no no, she
thought again as she watched Peter march purposefully toward the closed
door and the art wraiths waiting to pass judgment. On her.
grew cold and numb as she moved slowly forward, propelled by an undeniable
force, a rude mix of excitement and terror. She wanted to rush toward
the doors, yank them open and yell, Here I am!
But mostly she wanted
to turn and flee, to hide.
To stumble back down
the long, long, light-filled, art-filled, marble-filled hallway. To admit
shed made a mistake. Given the wrong answer when asked if shed
like a solo show. At the Musée. When asked if shed like all
her dreams to come true.
Shed given the
wrong answer. Shed said yes. And this is where it led.
Someone had lied.
Or hadnt told the whole truth. In her dream, her only dream, played
over and over since childhood, she had a solo show at the Musée
dArt Contemporain. She walked down this corridor. Composed and collected.
Beautiful and slim. Witty and popular.
Into the waiting arms
of an adoring world.
There was no terror.
No nausea. No creatures glimpsed through the frosted glass, waiting to
devour her. Dissect her. Diminish her, and her creations.
Someone had lied.
Had not told her something else might be waiting.
Oh, no no no, thought
Clara. Still the dead one lay moaning.
What was the rest
of the poem? Why did it elude her?
Now, within feet of
the end of her journey all she wanted to do was run away home to Three
Pines. To open the wooden gate. To race up the path lined with apple trees
in spring bloom. To slam their front door shut behind her. To lean against
it. To lock it. To press her body against it, and keep the world out.
Now, too late, she
knew whod lied to her.
threw itself against her ribs, like something caged and terrified and
desperate to escape. She realized she was holding her breath and wondered
for how long. To make up for it she started breathing rapidly.
Peter was talking
but his voice was muffled, far away. Drowned out by the shrieking in her
head, and the pounding in her chest.
And the noise building
behind the doors. As they got closer.
going to be fun, said Peter, with a reassuring smile.
Clara opened her hand
and dropped her purse. It fell with a plop to the floor, since it was
all but empty, containing simply a breath mint and the tiny paint brush
from the first paint-by-number set her grandmother had given her.
Clara dropped to her
knees, pretending to gather up invisible items and stuff them into her
clutch. She lowered her head, trying to catch her breath, and wondered
if she was about to pass out.
in, she heard. Deep breath out.
Clara stared from
the purse on the gleaming marble floor to the man crouched across from
It wasnt Peter.
Instead, she saw her
friend and neighbor from Three Pines, Olivier Brulé. He was kneeling
beside her, watching, his kind eyes life preservers thrown to a drowning
woman. She held them.
in, he whispered. His voice was calm. This was their own private
crisis. Their own private rescue.
She took a deep breath
think I can do it. Clara leaned forward, feeling faint. She could
feel the walls closing in, and see Peters polished black leather
shoes on the floor ahead. Where hed finally stopped. Not missing
her right away. Not noticing his wife was kneeling on the floor.
whispered Olivier. But I also know you. Whether its on your
knees or on your feet, youre going through that door. He nodded
toward the end of the hall, his eyes never leaving hers. It might
as well be on your feet.
not too late. Clara searched his face. Seeing his silky blond hair,
and the lines only visible very close up. More lines than a thirty-eight-year-old
man should have. I could leave. Go back home.
face disappeared and she saw again her garden, as shed seen it that
morning, the mist not yet burned off. The dew heavy under her rubber boots.
The early roses and late peonies damp and fragrant. Shed sat on
the wooden bench in their backyard, with her morning coffee, and shed
thought about the day ahead.
Not once had she imagined
herself collapsed on the floor. In terror. Longing to leave. To go back
to the garden.
But Olivier was right.
She wouldnt return. Not yet.
Oh, no no no. Shed
have to go through those doors. They were the only way home now.
out, Olivier whispered, with a smile.
Clara laughed, and
exhaled. Youd make a good midwife.
you two doing down there? Gabri asked as he watched Clara and his
partner. I know what Olivier usually does in that position and I
hope that isnt it. He turned to Peter. Though that might
explain the laughter.
Olivier handed Clara her purse and they got to their feet.
Gabri, never far from
Oliviers side, gave Clara a bear hug. You OK? He examined
her closely. He was big, though Gabri preferred to call himself burly,
his face unscored by the worry lines of his partner.
Fucked up, insecure,
neurotic and egotistical? asked Gabri.
I. And sos everyone through there. Gabri gestured toward the
door. What they arent is the fabulous artist with the solo
show. So youre both fine and famous.
asked Peter, waving toward Clara and smiling.
She hesitated, then
taking Peters hand, they walked together down the corridor, the
sharp echoes of their feet not quite masking the merriment on the other
thought Clara. Theyre laughing at my art.
And in that instant
the body of the poem surfaced. The rest of it was revealed.
Oh, no no no, thought
Clara. Still the dead one lay moaning.
I was much too far
out all my life
And not waving but
* * *
From far off Armand
Gamache could hear the sound of children playing. He knew where it was
coming from. The park across the way, though he couldnt see the
children through the maple trees in late spring leaf. He sometimes liked
to sit there and pretend the shouts and laughter came from his young grandchildren,
Florence and Zora. He imagined his son Daniel and Roslyn were in the park,
watching their children. And that soon theyd walk hand in hand across
the quiet street in the very center of the great city, for dinner. Or
he and Reine-Marie would join them. And play catch, or conkers.
He liked to pretend
they werent thousands of kilometers away in Paris.
But mostly he just
listened to the shouts and shrieks and laughter of neighborhood children.
And smiled. And relaxed.
Gamache reached for
his beer and lowered the LObservateur magazine to his knee. His
wife, Reine-Marie, sat across from him on their balcony. She too had a
cold beer on this unexpectedly warm day in mid-June. But her copy of La
Presse was folded on the table and she stared into the distance.
you thinking about? he asked.
My mind was
He was silent for
a moment, watching her. Her hair was quite gray now, but then, so was
his. Shed dyed it auburn for many years but just recently had stopped
doing that. He was glad. Like him, she was in her mid-fifties. And this
was what a couple of that age looked like. If they were lucky.
Not like models. No
one would mistake them for that. Armand Gamache wasnt heavy, but
solidly built. If a stranger visited this home he might think Monsieur
Gamache a quiet academic, a professor of history or literature perhaps
at the Université de Montréal.
But that too would
be a mistake.
Books were everywhere
in their large apartment. Histories, biographies, novels, studies on Québec
antiques, poetry. Placed in orderly bookcases. Just about every table
had at least one book on it, and often several magazines. And the weekend
newspapers were scattered on the coffee table in the living room, in front
of the fireplace. If a visitor was the observant type, and made it further
into the apartment to Gamaches study, he might see the story the
books in there told.
And hed soon
realize this was not the home of some retiring professor of French literature.
The shelves were packed with case histories, with books on medicine and
forensics, with tomes on Napoleonic and common law, fingerprinting, genetic
coding, wounds and weapons.
Murder. Armand Gamaches
study was filled with it.
But still, even among
the death, space was made for books on philosophy and poetry.
as they sat on the balcony, Gamache was once again struck by the certainty
hed married above himself. Not socially. Not academically. But he
could never shake the suspicion he had gotten very, very lucky.
Armand Gamache knew
hed had a great deal of luck in his life, but none more than having
loved the same woman for thirty-five years. Unless it was the extraordinary
stroke of luck that she should also love him.
Now she turned her
blue eyes on him. Actually, I was thinking about Claras vernissage.
We should be
He looked at his watch. It was five past five. The party to launch Clara
Morrows solo show started at the Musée at five and would
end at seven. As soon as David arrives.
Their son-in-law was
half an hour late and Gamache glanced inside their apartment. He could
just barely make out his daughter Annie sitting in the living room reading,
and across from her was his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir. Kneading
Henris remarkable ears. The Gamaches German shepherd could
stay like that all day, a goofy grin on his young face.
Jean Guy and Annie
were ignoring each other. Gamache smiled slightly. At least they werent
hurling insults, or worse, across the room.
Would you like
to leave? Armand offered. We could call David on his cell
and ask him to just meet us there.
we give him another couple of minutes.
Gamache nodded and
picked up the magazine, then he lowered it slowly.
Is there something
then smiled. I was just wondering how youre feeling about
going to the vernissage. And wondering if youre stalling.
Armand raised his
brow in surprise.
* * *
Jean Guy Beauvoir
rubbed Henris ears and stared at the young woman across from him.
Hed known her for fifteen years, since he was a rookie on homicide
and she was a teenager. Awkward, gawky, bossy.
He didnt like
kids. Certainly didnt like smart-ass teenagers. But hed tried
to like Annie Gamache, if only because she was the bosss daughter.
Hed tried and
hed tried and hed tried. And finally
And now he was nearing
forty and she was nearing thirty. A lawyer. Married. Still awkward and
gawky and bossy. But hed tried so hard to like her hed finally
seen beyond that. Hed seen her laugh with real gaiety, seen her
listen to very boring people as though they were riveting. She looked
as though she was genuinely glad to see them. As though they were important.
Hed seen her dance, arms flailing and head tilted back. Eyes shining.
And hed felt
her hand in his. Only once.
In the hospital. Hed
come back up from very far away. Fought through the pain and the dark
to that foreign but gentle touch. He knew it didnt belong to his
wife, Enid. That bird-like grip he would not have come back for.
But this hand was
large, and certain, and warm. And it invited him back.
Hed opened his
eyes to see Annie Gamache staring at him with such concern. Why would
she be there, hed wondered. And then he knew why.
Because she had nowhere
else to be. No other hospital bed to sit beside.
Because her father
was dead. Killed by a gunman in the abandoned factory. Beauvoir had seen
it happen. Seen Gamache hit. Seen him lifted off his feet and fall to
the concrete floor.
And lie still.
And now Annie Gamache
was holding his hand in the hospital, because the hand she really wanted
to be holding was gone.
Jean Guy Beauvoir
had pried his eyes open and seen Annie Gamache looking so sad. And his
heart broke. Then he saw something else.
No one had ever looked
at him that way. With unconcealed and unbound joy.
Annie had looked at
him like that, when hed opened his eyes.
Hed tried to
speak but couldnt. But shed rightly guessed what he was trying
in and whispered into his ear, and he could smell her fragrance. It was
slightly citrony. Clean and fresh. Not Enids clinging, full-bodied
perfume. Annie smelled like a lemon grove in summer.
himself then. There were many humiliations waiting for him in the hospital.
From bedpans and diapers to sponge baths. But none was more personal,
more intimate, more of a betrayal than what his broken body did then.
And Annie saw. And
Annie never mentioned it from that day to this.
To Henris bafflement,
Jean Guy stopped rubbing the dogs ears and placed one hand on the
other, in a gesture that had become habitual now.
That was how it had
felt. Annies hand on his.
This was all hed
ever have of her. His bosss married daughter.
late, said Jean Guy, and could hear the accusation. The shove.
Very, very slowly
Annie lowered her newspaper. And glared at him.
What was his point?
to be late because of him.
Then go. I dont
Hed loaded the
gun, pointed it at his head, and begged Annie to pull the trigger. And
now he felt the words strike. Cut. Travel deep and explode.
I dont care.
It was almost comforting,
he realized. The pain. Perhaps if he forced her to hurt him enough hed
stop feeling anything.
she said, leaning forward, her voice softening a bit. Im sorry
about you and Enid. Your separation.
it happens. As a lawyer you should know that.
She looked at him
with searching eyes, like her fathers. Then she nodded.
She grew quiet, still. Especially after what youve been through,
I guess. It makes you think about your life. Would you like to talk about
Talk about Enid with
Annie? All the petty sordid squabbles, the tiny slights, the scarring
and scabbing. The thought revolted him and he must have shown it. Annie
pulled back and reddened as though hed slapped her.
Forget I said
anything, she snapped and lifted the paper to her face.
He searched for something
to say, some small bridge, a jetty back to her. The minutes stretched
Beauvoir finally blurted out. It was the first thing that popped into
his hollow head, like the Magic Eight Ball, that when it stopped being
shaken produced a single word. Vernissage, in this case.
The newspaper lowered
and Annies stone face appeared.
The people from
Three Pines will be there, you know.
Still her face was
in the Eastern Townships, he waved vaguely out the window. South
I know where
the townships are, she said.
for Clara Morrow, but theyll all be there Im sure.
She raised the newspaper
again. The Canadian dollar was strong, he read from across the room. Winter
potholes still unfixed, he read. An investigation into government corruption,
One of them
hates your father.
The newspaper slowly
dropped. What do you mean?
he realized by her expression he might have gone too far, not enough
to harm him or anything.
about Three Pines and the people, but he never mentioned this.
Now she was upset
and he wished he hadnt said anything, but it at least did the trick.
She was talking to him again. Her father was the bridge.
Annie dropped her
paper onto the table and glanced beyond Beauvoir to her parents talking
quietly on the balcony.
She suddenly looked
like that teenager hed first met. She was never going to be the
most beautiful woman in the room. That much was obvious even then. Annie
was not fine-boned or delicate. She was more athletic than graceful. She
cared about clothes, but she also cared about comfort.
strong physically. He could beat her at arm-wrestling, he knew because
theyd done it several times, but he actually had to try.
With Enid he would
never consider trying. And she would never offer.
Annie Gamache had
not only offered, but had fully expected to win.
Then had laughed when
Where other women,
including Enid, were lovely, Annie Gamache was alive.
Late, too late, Jean
Guy Beauvoir had come to appreciate how very important it was, how very
attractive it was, how very rare it was, to be fully alive.
Annie looked back
at Beauvoir. Why would one of them hate Dad?
Beauvoir lowered his
voice. OK, look. Thiss what happened.
Annie leaned forward.
They were a couple of feet apart and Beauvoir could just smell her scent.
It was all he could do not to take her hands in his.
There was a
murder in Claras village, Three Pines
Yes, Dad has
mentioned that. Seems like a cottage industry there.
Despite himself, Beauvoir
laughed. There is strong shadow where there is much light.
of astonishment made Beauvoir laugh again.
Let me guess,
she said. You didnt make that up.
Beauvoir smiled and
nodded. Some German guy said it. And then your father said it.
A few times?
that I wake up screaming it in the middle of the night.
Annie smiled. I
know. I was the only kid in school who quoted Leigh Hunt. Her voice
changed slightly as she remembered, But most he loved a happy human
* * *
Gamache smiled as
he heard the laughter from the living room.
He cocked his head
in their direction. Are they finally making peace, do you think?
or its a sign of the apocalypse, said Reine-Marie. If
four horsemen gallop out of the park youre on your own, monsieur.
to hear him laugh, said Gamache.
Since his separation
from Enid, Jean Guy had seemed distant. Aloof. Hed never been exactly
exuberant but Beauvoir was quieter than ever these days, as though his
walls had grown and thickened. And his narrow drawbridge had been raised.
Armand Gamache knew
no good ever came from putting up walls. What people mistook for safety
was in fact captivity. And few things thrived in captivity.
time, said Reine-Marie.
Avec le temps,
agreed Armand. But privately he wondered. He knew time could heal. But
it could also do more damage. A forest fire, spread over time, would consume
Gamache, with one
last look at the two younger people, continued his conversation with Reine-Marie.
Do you really
think I dont want to go to the vernissage? he asked.
She considered for
a moment. Im not sure. Lets just say you dont
seem in a hurry to get there.
Gamache nodded and
thought for a moment. I know everyone will be there. I suppose it
might be awkward.
one of them for a murder he didnt commit, said Reine-Marie.
It wasnt an accusation. In fact, it was said quietly and gently.
Trying to tease the truth of her husbands feelings from him. Feelings
he himself might not even be aware he had.
And you consider
that a social faux pas? he asked with a smile.
More than just
a social faux pas, Id say, she laughed, relieved to see the
genuine humor in his face. A face now clean-shaven. No more moustache.
No more graying beard. Just Armand. He looked at her with his deep brown
eyes. And as she held them she could almost forget the scar above his
After a moment his
smile faded and he nodded again, taking a deep breath.
It was a terrible
thing to do to someone, he said.
do it on purpose, Armand.
True, but his
time in prison wasnt more pleasant because of that. Gamache
thought for a moment, looking from the gentle face of his wife out into
the trees of the park. A natural setting. He so yearned for that, since
his days were filled with hunting the unnatural. Killers. People who took
the lives of others. Often in gruesome and dreadful ways. Armand Gamache
was the head of homicide for the famed Sûreté du Québec.
He was very good at his job.
But he wasnt
Olivier Brulé for a murder he didnt commit.
* * *
So what happened?
Well, you know
most of it, dont you? It was in all the papers.
Of course I
read the reports, and talked to Dad about it. But he never mentioned that
someone involved might still hate him.
Well, as you
know, it was almost a year ago, said Jean Guy. A man was found
dead in the bistro in Three Pines. We investigated and the evidence seemed
overwhelming. We found fingerprints, the murder weapon, stuff stolen from
the dead mans cabin in the woods. All of it hidden in the bistro.
We arrested Olivier. He was tried and convicted.
Did you think
hed done it?
Beauvoir nodded. I
was sure of it. It wasnt just your father.
So how come
you changed your mind? Did someone else confess?
No. You remember
a few months ago, after that raid on the factory? When your father was
recovering in Quebec City?
Well, he began
to have his doubts, so he asked me to go back to Three Pines to investigate.
And you did.
Jean Guy nodded. Of
course hed gone back. Hed do anything the Chief Inspector
asked of him. Though he himself had no such doubts. He believed the right
man was in prison. But hed investigated, and discovered something
that had truly shocked him.
The real murderer.
And the real reason for the killing.
* * *
been back to Three Pines since you arrested Olivier, said Reine-Marie.
This wont be the first time youll have seen them.
She too had visited
Three Pines and become friends with Clara and Peter and the others, though
she hadnt seen them in quite a while. Not since all this had happened.
true, said Armand. Jean Guy and I took Olivier back after
even imagine how that felt for him.
Gamache was quiet.
Seeing the sun gleaming off snowbanks. Through the frosted panes of glass
he could see the villagers gathered in the bistro. Warm and safe. The
cheery fires lit. The mugs of beer and bowls of café au lait. The
And Olivier, stalled.
Two feet from the closed door. Staring at it.
Jean Guy had gone
to open it, but Gamache had lain a gloved hand on his arm. And together
in the bitter cold theyd waited. Waited. For Olivier to make the
After what seemed
an age, but was probably only a few heartbeats, Olivier reached out, paused
for one more moment, then opened the door.
I wish I couldve
seen Gabris face, said Reine-Marie, imagining the large, expressive
man seeing his partner returned.
Gamache had described
it all to Reine-Marie, when hed returned home. But he knew that
no matter how much ecstasy Reine-Marie imagined, the reality was even
greater. At least on Gabris part. The rest of the villagers were
elated to see Olivier too. But
What is it?
didnt kill the man, but as you know a lot of unpleasant things about
him came out in the trial. Olivier had certainly stolen from the Hermit,
taken advantage of their friendship and the mans frail state of
mind. And it turned out that Olivier had used the stolen money to secretly
buy up a lot of property in Three Pines. Gabri didnt even know about
Reine-Marie was quiet,
considering what shed just heard.
I wonder how
his friends feel about that, said Reine-Marie at last.
So did Gamache.
* * *
Olivier is the
one who hates my father? asked Annie. But how could that be?
Dad got him out of prison. He took him back to Three Pines.
Yes, but the
way Olivier sees it, I got him out of prison. Your father put him in.
Annie stared at Beauvoir,
then shook her head.
Beauvoir went on.
Your father apologized, you know. In front of everyone in the bistro.
He told Olivier he was sorry for what he did.
And what did
That he couldnt
forgive him. Not yet.
Annie thought about
that. How did Dad react?
seem surprised, or upset. In fact, I think hed have been surprised
had Olivier suddenly decided all was forgiven. He wouldnt have really
Beauvoir knew the
only thing worse than no apology was an insincere one.
Jean Guy had to give
Olivier that. Instead of appearing to accept the apology, Olivier had
finally told the truth. The hurt went too deep. He wasnt ready to
I guess well
A TRICK OF THE LIGHT.
Copyright 2011 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.
BURY YOUR DEAD (Chapter 1)
Up the stairs they
raced, taking them two at a time, trying to be as quiet as possible. Gamache
struggled to keep his breathing steady, as though he was sitting at home,
as though he had not a care in the world.
Sir? came the young
voice over Gamaches headphones.
You must believe me,
son. Nothing bad will happen to you.
He hoped the young
agent couldnt hear the strain in his voice, the flattening as the Chief
Inspector fought to keep his voice authoritative, certain.
I believe you.
They reached the landing.
Inspector Beauvoir stopped, staring at his Chief. Gamache looked at his
In his headphones
the agent was telling him about the sunshine and how good it felt on his
The rest of the team
made the landing, tactical vests in place, automatic weapons drawn, eyes
sharp. Trained on the Chief. Beside him Inspector Beauvoir was also waiting
for a decision. Which way? They were close. Within feet of their quarry.
Gamache stared down
one dark, dingy corridor in the abandoned factory then down the other.
They looked identical.
Light scraped through the broken, grubby windows lining the halls and
with it came the December day.
He pointed decisively
to the left and they ran, silently, toward the door at the end. As he
ran Gamache gripped his rifle and spoke calmly into the headset.
Theres no need to
Theres forty seconds
left, sir. Each word was exhaled as though the man on the other end was
having difficulty breathing.
Just listen to me,
said Gamache, thrusting his hand toward a door. The team surged ahead.
I wont let anything
happen to you, said Gamache, his voice convincing, commanding, daring
the young agent to contradict. Youll be having dinner with your family
The tactical team
surrounded the closed door with its frosted, filthy window. Darkened.
Gamache paused, staring
at it, his hand hanging in the air ready to give the signal to break it
down. To rescue his agent.
Beside him Beauvoir
strained, waiting to be loosed.
Too late, Chief Inspector
Gamache realized hed made a mistake.
Give it time, Armand.
Avec le temps? Gamache
returned the older mans smile and made a fist of his right hand. To stop
the trembling. A tremble so slight he was certain the waitress in the
Quebec City caf hadnt noticed. The two students across the way tapping
on their laptops wouldnt notice. No one would notice.
Except someone very
close to him.
He looked at mile
Comeau, crumbling a flaky croissant with sure hands. He was nearing eighty
now, Gamaches mentor and former chief. His hair was white and groomed,
his eyes through his glasses a sharp blue. He was slender and energetic,
even now. Though with each visit Armand Gamache noticed a slight softening
about the face, a slight slowing of the movements.
Avec le temps.
Widowed five years,
mile Comeau knew the power, and length, of time.
Gamaches own wife,
Reine-Marie, had left at dawn that morning after spending a week with
them at miles stone home within the old walled city of Qubec. Theyd had
quiet dinners together in front of the fire, theyd walked the narrow snow-covered
streets. Talked. Were silent. Read the papers, discussed events. The three
of them. Four, if you counted their German shepherd, Henri.
And most days Gamache
had gone off on his own to a local library, to read.
mile and Reine-Marie
had given him that, recognizing that right now he needed society but he
also needed solitude.
And then it was time
for her to leave. After saying good-bye to mile she turned to her husband.
Tall, solid, a man who preferred good books and long walks to any other
activity, he looked more like a distinguished professor in his mid-fifties
than the head of the most prestigious homicide unit in Canada. The Sret
du Qubec. He walked her to her car, scraping the morning ice from the
You dont have to go,
you know, he said, smiling down at her as they stood in the brittle, new
day. Henri sat in a snow bank nearby and watched.
I know. But you and
mile need time together. I could see how you were looking at each other.
The longing? laughed
the Chief Inspector. Id hoped wed been more discreet.
A wife always knows.
She smiled, looking into his deep brown eyes. He wore a hat, but still
she could see his graying hair, and the slight curl where it came out
from under the fabric. And his beard. Shed slowly become used to the beard.
For years hed had a moustache, but just lately, since it happened, hed
grown the trim beard.
She paused. Should
she say it? It was never far from her mind now, from her mouth. The words
she knew were useless, if any words could be described as that. Certainly
she knew they could not make the thing happen. If they could she would
surround him with them, encase him with her words.
Come home when you
can, she said instead, her voice light.
He kissed her. I will.
In a few days, a week at the most. Call me when you get there.
Daccord. She got into
Je taime, he said,
putting his gloved hand into the window to touch her shoulder.
Watch out, her mind
screamed. Be safe. Come home with me. Be careful, be careful, be careful.
She put her own gloved
hand over his. Je taime.
And then she was gone,
back to Montreal, glancing in the rear-view mirror to see him standing
on the deserted early morning street, Henri naturally at his side. Both
watching her, until she disappeared.
The Chief Inspector
continued to stare even after shed turned the corner. Then he picked up
a shovel and slowly cleared the nights fluffy snowfall from the front
steps. Resting for a moment, his arms crossed over the handle of the shovel,
he marveled at the beauty as the first light hit the new snow. It looked
more pale blue than white, and here and there it sparkled like tiny prisms
where the flakes had drifted and collected, then caught, remade, and returned
the light. Like something alive and giddy.
Life in the old walled
city was like that. Both gentle and dynamic, ancient and vibrant.
Picking up a handful
of snow, the Chief Inspector mashed it into a ball in his fist. Henri
immediately stood, his tail going so hard his entire rear swayed. His
eyes burning into the ball.
Gamache tossed it
into the air and the dog leapt, his mouth closing over the snowball, and
chomping down. Landing on all fours Henri was once again surprised that
the thing that had been so solid had suddenly disappeared.
Gone, so quickly.
But next time would
He might be right.
Just then mile stepped
out from his doorway, bundled in an immense winter coat against the biting
Ready? The elderly
man clamped a toque onto his head, pulling it down so that it covered
his ears and forehead, and put on thick mitts, like boxing gloves.
For what? A siege?
For breakfast, mon
vieux. Come along, before someone gets the last croissant.
He knew how to motivate
his former subordinate. Hardly pausing for Gamache to replace the shovel,
mile headed off up the snowy street. Around them the other residents of
Quebec City were waking up. Coming out into the tender morning light to
shovel, to scrape the snow from their cars, to walk to the boulangerie
for their morning baguette and caf.
The two men and Henri
set out along rue St-Jean, past the restaurants and tourist shops, to
a tiny side street called rue Couillard, and there they found Chez Temporel.
Theyd been coming
to this caf for fifteen years, ever since Superintendent mile Comeau had
retired to old Quebec City, and Gamache had come to visit, to spend time
with his mentor, and to help with the little chores that piled up. Shoveling,
stacking wood for the fireplace, sealing windows against drafts. But this
visit was different. Like no other in all the winters Chief Inspector
Gamache had been coming to Quebec City.
This time it was Gamache
who needed help.
So, mile leaned back,
cupping his bowl of caf au lait in slender hands. Hows the research going?
I cant yet find any
references to Captain Cook actually meeting Bougainville before the Battle
of Qubec, but it was 250 years ago. Records are scattered and werent well
kept. But I know theyre in there, said Gamache. Its an amazing library,
mile. The volumes go back centuries.
Comeau watched his
companion talk about sifting through arcane books in a local library and
the tidbits he was unearthing about a battle long ago fought, and lost.
At least, from his point of view lost. Was there a spark in those beloved
eyes at last? Those eyes hed stared into so often at the scenes of dreadful
crimes as theyd hunted murderers. As theyd raced through woods and villages
and fields, through clues and evidence and suspicions. Adown Titanic glooms
of chasmed fears, mile remembered the quote as he remembered those days.
Yes, he thought, that described it. Chasmed fears. Both their own, and
the murderers. Across tables across the province he and Gamache had sat.
Just like this.
But now it was time
to rest from murder. No more killing, no more deaths. Armand had seen
too much of that lately. No, better to bury himself in history, in lives
long past. An intellectual pursuit, nothing more.
Beside them Henri
stirred and Gamache instinctively lowered his hand to stroke the shepherds
head and reassure him. And once again mile noted the slight tremble. Barely
there now. Stronger at times. Sometimes it disappeared completely. It
was a tell-tale tremble, and mile knew the terrible tale it had to tell.
He wished he could
take that hand and hold it steady and tell him it would be all right.
Because it would, he knew.
Watching Armand Gamache
he noticed again the jagged scar on his left temple and the trim beard
hed grown. So that people would stop staring. So that people would not
recognize the most recognizable police officer in Qubec.
But, of course, it
didnt matter. It wasnt them Armand Gamache was hiding from.
The waitress at Chez
Temporel arrived with more coffee.
Merci, Danielle, the
two men said at once and she left, smiling at the two men who looked so
different but seemed so similar.
They drank their coffees
and ate pain au chocolat and croissants aux amandes and talked about the
Carnaval de Qubec, starting that night. Occasionally theyd lapse into
silence, watching the men and women hurrying along the icy cold street
outside to their jobs. Someone had scratched a three-leaf clover into
a slight indent in the center of their wooden table. mile rubbed it with
And wondered when
Armand would want to talk about what happened.
It was ten thirty
and the monthly board meeting of the Literary and Historical Society was
about to start. For many years the meetings had been held in the evening,
when the library was closed, but then it was noticed that fewer and fewer
members were showing up.
So the Chairman, Porter
Wilson, had changed the time. At least, he thought hed changed the time.
At least, it had been reported in the board minutes that it had been his
motion, though he privately seemed to remember arguing against it.
And yet, here they
were meeting in the morning, and had been for some years. Still, the other
members had adjusted, as had Porter. He had to, since it had apparently
been his idea.
The fact the board
had adjusted at all was a miracle. The last time theyd been asked to change
anything it had been the worn leather on the Lit and His chairs, and that
had been sixty-three years ago. Members still remembered fathers and mothers,
grandparents, ranged on either side of the upholstered Mason-Dixon Line.
Remembered vitriolic comments made behind closed doors, behind backs,
but before children. Who didnt forget, sixty-three years later, that devious
alteration from old black leather to new black leather.
Pulling out his chair
at the head of the table Porter noticed it was looking worn. He sat quickly
so that no one, least of all himself, could see it.
Small stacks of paper
were neatly arranged in front of his and every other place, marching down
the wooden table. Elizabeth MacWhirters doing. He examined Elizabeth.
Plain, tall and slim. At least, she had been that when the world was young.
Now she just looked freeze-dried. Like those ancient cadavers pulled from
glaciers. Still obviously human, but withered and gray. Her dress was
blue and practical and a very good cut and material, he suspected. After
all, she was one of those MacWhirters. A venerable and moneyed family.
One not given to displays of wealth, or brains. Her brother had sold the
shipping empire about a decade too late. But there was still money there.
She was a little dull, he thought, but responsible. Not a leader, not
a visionary. Not the sort to hold a community in peril together. Like
him. And his father before him. And his grandfather.
For the tiny English
community within the walls of old Quebec City had been in peril for many
generations. It was a kind of perpetual peril that sometimes got better
and sometimes got worse, but never disappeared completely. Just like the
Porter Wilson had
never fought a war, being just that much too young, and then too old.
Not, anyway, an official war. But he and the other members of his board
knew themselves to be in a battle nevertheless. And one, he secretly suspected,
they were losing.
At the door Elizabeth
MacWhirter greeted the other board members as they arrived and looked
over at Porter Wilson already seated at the head of the table, reading
over his notes.
Hed accomplished many
things in his life, Elizabeth knew. The choir hed organized, the amateur
theater, the wing for the nursing home. All built by force of will and
personality. And all less than they might have been had he sought and
The very force of
his personality both created and crippled. How much more could he have
accomplished had he been kinder? But then, dynamism and kindness often
didnt go together, though when they did they were unstoppable.
Porter was stoppable.
Indeed, he stopped himself. And now the only board that could stand him
was the Lit and His. Elizabeth had known Porter for seventy years, since
shed seen him eating lunch alone, every day, at school and gone to keep
him company. Porter decided she was sucking up to one of the great Wilson
clan, and treated her with disdain.
Still, she kept him
company. Not because she liked him but because she knew even then something
it would take Porter Wilson decades to realize. The English of Quebec
City were no longer the juggernauts, no longer the steamships, no longer
the gracious passenger liners of the society and economy.
They were a life raft.
Adrift. And you dont make war on others in the raft.
had figured that out. And when Porter rocked the boat, she righted it.
She looked at Porter
Wilson and saw a small, energetic, touped man. His hair, where not imported,
was dyed a shade of black the chairs would envy. His eyes were brown and
darted about nervously.
Mr. Blake arrived
first. The oldest board member, he practically lived at the Lit and His.
He took off his coat, revealing his uniform of gray flannel suit, laundered
white shirt, blue silk tie. He was always perfectly turned out. A gentleman,
who managed to make Elizabeth feel young and beautiful. Shed had a crush
on him when shed been an awkward teen and he in his dashing twenties.
Hed been attractive
then and sixty years later he was still attractive, though his hair was
thin and white and his once fine body had rounded and softened. But his
eyes were smart and lively, and his heart was large and strong.
Elizabeth, Mr. Blake
smiled and took her hand, holding it for a moment. Never too long, never
too familiar. Just enough, so that she knew shed been held.
He took his seat.
A seat, Elizabeth thought, that should be replaced. But then, honestly,
so should Mr. Blake. So should they all.
What would happen
when they died out and all that was left of the board of the Literary
and Historical Society were worn, empty chairs?
Right, we need to
make this fast. We have a practice in an hour.
Tom Hancock arrived,
followed by Ken Haslam. The two were never far apart these days, being
unlikely team members in the ridiculous upcoming race.
Tom was Elizabeths
triumph. Her hope. And not simply because he was the minister of St. Andrews
Presbyterian Church next door.
He was young and new
to the community, having moved to Quebec City three years earlier. At
thirty-three he was about half the age of the next youngest board member.
Not yet cynical, not yet burned out. He still believed his church would
find new parishioners, the English community would suddenly produce babies
with the desire to stay in Quebec City. He believed the Qubec government
when it promised job equality for Anglophones. And health care in their
own language. And education. And nursing homes so that when all hope was
lost, they might die with their mother tongue on caregivers lips.
Hed managed to inspire
the board to believe maybe all wasnt lost. And even, maybe, this wasnt
really a war. Wasnt some dreadful extension of the Battle of the Plains
of Abraham, one which the English lost this time. Elizabeth glanced up
at the oddly petite statue of General James Wolfe. The martyred hero of
the battle 250 years ago hovered over the library of the Literary and
Historical Society, like a wooden accusation. To witness their petty battles
and to remind them, in perpetuity, of the great battle hed fought, for
them. Where hed died, but not before triumphing on that blood-soaked farmers
field. Ending the war, and securing Qubec for the English. On paper.
And now from his corner
of the lovely old library General Wolfe looked down on them. In every
way, Elizabeth suspected.
So, Ken, Tom said,
taking his place beside the older man. You in shape? Ready for the race?
Elizabeth didnt hear
Ken Haslams response. But then she didnt expect to. Kens thin lips moved,
words were formed, but never actually heard.
They all paused, thinking
perhaps this was the day he would produce a word above a whisper. But
they were wrong. Still, Tom Hancock continued to talk to Ken, as though
they were actually having a conversation.
Elizabeth loved Tom
for that as well. For not giving in to the notion that because Ken was
quiet he was stupid. Elizabeth knew him to be anything but. In his mid-sixties
he was the most successful of all of them, building a business of his
own. And now, having achieved that Ken Haslam had done something else
Hed signed up for
the treacherous ice canoe race. Signed on to Tom Hancocks team. He would
be the oldest member of the team, the oldest member of any team. Perhaps
the oldest racer ever.
Watching Ken, quiet
and calm and Tom, young, vital, handsome, Elizabeth wondered if maybe
they understood each other very well after all. Perhaps both had things
they werent saying.
Not for the first
time Elizabeth wondered about Tom Hancock. Why hed chosen to minister
to them, and why he stayed within the walls of old Quebec City. It took
a certain personality, Elizabeth knew, to choose to live in what amounted
to a fortress.
Right, lets start,
said Porter, sitting up even straighter.
Winnie isnt here yet,
We cant wait.
Why not? Tom asked,
his voice relaxed. But still Porter heard a challenge.
Because its already
past ten thirty and youre the one who wanted to make this quick, Porter
said, pleased at having scored a point.
Once again, thought
Elizabeth, Porter managed to look at a friend and see a foe.
Quite right. Still,
Im happy to wait, smiled Tom, unwilling to take to the field.
Well, Im not. First
order of business?
They discussed the
purchase of new books for a while before Winnie arrived. Small and energetic,
she was fierce in her loyalty. To the English community, to the Lit and
His, but mostly to her friend.
She marched in, gave
Porter a withering look, and sat next to Elizabeth.
I see you started
without me, she said to him. I told you Id be late.
You did, but that
doesnt mean we had to wait. Were discussing new books to buy.
And it didnt occur
to you this might be an issue best discussed with the librarian?
Well, youre here now.
The rest of the board
watched this as though at Wimbledon, though with considerably less interest.
It was pretty clear who had the balls, and who would win.
Fifty minutes later
theyd almost reached the end of the agenda. There was one oatmeal cookie
left, the members staring but too polite to take it. Theyd discussed the
heating bills, the membership drive, the ratty old volumes left to them
in wills, instead of money. The books were generally sermons, or lurid
Victorian poetry, or the dreary daily diary of a trip up the Amazon or
into Africa to shoot and stuff some poor wild creature.
They discussed having
another sale of books, but after the last debacle that was a short discussion.
Elizabeth took notes
and had to force herself not to lip-synch to each board members comments.
It was a liturgy. Familiar, soothing in a strange way. The same words
repeated over and over every meeting. For ever and ever. Amen.
A sound suddenly interrupted
that comforting liturgy, a sound so unique and startling Porter almost
jumped out of his chair.
What was that? whispered
Ken Haslam. For him it was almost a shout.
Its the doorbell,
I think, said Winnie.
The doorbell? asked
Porter. I didnt know we had one.
Put in in 1897 after
the Lieutenant Governor visited and couldnt get in, said Mr. Blake, as
though hed been there. Never heard it myself.
But he heard it again.
A long, shrill bell. Elizabeth had locked the front door to the Literary
and Historical Society as soon as everyone had arrived. A precaution against
being interrupted. Though since hardly anyone ever visited it was more
habit than necessity. Shed also hung a sign on the thick wooden door.
Board Meeting in Progress. Library will reopen at noon. Thank you. Merci.
The bell sounded again.
Someone was leaning on it, finger jammed into the button.
Still they stared
at each other.
Ill go, said Elizabeth.
Porter looked down
at his papers, the better part of valor.
No, Winnie stood.
Ill go. You all stay here.
They watched Winnie
disappear down the corridor and heard her feet on the wooden stairs. There
was silence. Then a minute later her feet on the stairs again.
They listened to the
footsteps clicking and clacking closer. She arrived but stopped at the
door, her face pale and serious.
Theres someone there.
Someone who wants to speak to the board.
Well, demanded Porter,
remembering he was their leader, now that the elderly woman had gone to
the door. Who is it?
Augustin Renaud, she
said and saw the looks on their faces. Had she said Dracula they could
not have been more startled. Though, for the English, startled meant raised
Every eyebrow in the
room was raised, and if General Wolfe could have managed it, he would
I left him outside,
she said into the silence.
As if to underscore
that the doorbell shrieked again.
What should we do?
Winnie asked, but instead of turning to Porter she looked at Elizabeth.
They all did.
We need to take a
vote, Elizabeth said at last. Should we see him?
Hes not on the agenda,
Mr. Blake pointed out.
Thats right, said
Porter, trying to wrestle back control. But even he looked at Elizabeth.
Whos in favor of letting
Augustin Renaud speak to the board? Elizabeth asked.
Not a hand was raised.
her pen, not taking note of the vote. Giving one curt nod she stood. Ill
Ill go with you, said
No, dear, you stay
here. Ill be right back. I mean, really? She paused at the door, taking
in the board and General Wolfe above. How bad could it be?
But they all knew
the answer to that. When Augustin Renaud came calling it was never good.
BURY YOUR DEAD. Copyright
2010 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.
THE BRUTAL TELLING
"All of them?
Even the children?" The fireplace sputtered and crackled and swallowed
his gasp. "Slaughtered?"
There was silence
then. And in that hush lived all the things that could be worse than slaughter.
"Are they close?"
His back tingled as he imagined something dreadful creeping through the
woods. Toward them. He looked around, almost expecting to see red eyes
staring through the dark windows. Or from the corners, or under the bed.
Have you seen the light in the night sky?"
"I thought those
were the Northern Lights." The pink and green and white shifting,
flowing against the stars. Like something alive, glowing, and growing.
lowered his gaze, no longer able to look into the troubled, lunatic eyes
across from him. He'd lived with this story for so long, and kept telling
himself it wasn't real. It was a myth, a story told and repeated and embellished
over and over and over. Around fires just like theirs.
It was a story, nothing
more. No harm in it.
But in this simple
log cabin, buried in the Quebec wilderness, it seemed like more than that.
Even Olivier felt himself believing it. Perhaps because the Hermit so
The old man sat in
his easy chair on one side of the stone hearth with Olivier on the other.
Olivier looked into a fire that had been alive for more than a decade.
An old flame not allowed to die, it mumbled and popped in the grate, throwing
soft light into the log cabin. He gave the embers a shove with the simple
iron poker, sending sparks up the chimney. Candlelight twinkled off shiny
objects like eyes in the darkness, found by the flame.
"It won't be
The Hermit's eyes
were gleaming like metal reaching its melting point. He was leaning forward
as he often did when this tale was told.
Olivier scanned the
single room. The dark was punctuated by flickering candles throwing fantastic,
grotesque shadows. Night seemed to have seeped through the cracks in the
logs and settled into the cabin, curled in corners and under the bed.
Many native tribes believed evil lived in corners, which was why their
traditional homes were rounded. Unlike the square homes the government
had given them.
Olivier didn't believe
evil lived in corners. Not really. Not in the daylight, anyway. But he
did believe there were things waiting in the dark corners of this cabin
that only the Hermit knew about. Things that set Olivier's heart pounding.
he said, trying to keep his voice steady.
It was late and Olivier
still had the twenty-minute walk through the forest back to Three Pines.
It was a trip he made every fortnight and he knew it well, even in the
Only in the dark.
Theirs was a relationship that existed only after nightfall.
They sipped Orange
Pekoe tea. A treat, Olivier knew, reserved for the Hermit's honored guest.
His only guest.
But now it was story
time. They leaned closer to the fire. It was early September and a chill
had crept in with the night.
"Where was I?
Oh, yes. I remember now."
Olivier's hands gripped
the warm mug even tighter.
force has destroyed everything in its way. The Old World and the New.
All gone. Except . . ."
"One tiny village
remains. Hidden in a valley, so the grim army hasn't seen it yet. But
it will. And when it does their great leader will stand at the head of
his army. He's immense, bigger than any tree, and clad in armor made from
rocks and spiny shells and bone."
The word was whispered
and disappeared into the darkness, where it curled into a corner. And
"Chaos. And the
Furies. Disease, Famine, Despair. All are swarming. Searching. And they'll
never stop. Not ever. Not until they find it."
"The thing that
The Hermit nodded,
his face grim. He seemed to see the slaughter, the destruction. See the
men and women, the children, fleeing before the merciless, soulless force.
"But what was
it? What could be so important they had to destroy everything to get it
Olivier willed his
eyes not to dart from the craggy face and into the darkness. To the corner,
and the thing they both knew was sitting there in its mean little canvas
sack. But the Hermit seemed to read his mind and Olivier saw a malevolent
grin settle onto the old man's face. And then it was gone.
"It's not the
army that wants it back."
They both saw then
the thing looming behind the terrible army. The thing even Chaos feared.
That drove Despair, Disease, Famine before it. With one goal. To find
what was taken from their Master.
"It's worse than
Their voices were
low, barely scraping the ground. Like conspirators in a cause already
"When the army
finally finds what it's searching for it will stop. And step aside. And
then the worst thing imaginable will arrive."
There was silence
again. And in that silence lived the worst thing imaginable.
Outside a pack of
coyotes set up a howl. They had something cornered.
Myth, that's all this
is, Olivier reassured himself. Just a story. Once more he looked into
the embers, so he wouldn't see the terror in the Hermit's face. Then he
checked his watch, tilting the crystal toward the fireplace until its
face glowed orange and told him the time. Two thirty in the morning.
"Chaos is coming,
old son, and there's no stopping it. It's taken a long time, but it's
The Hermit nodded,
his eyes rheumy and runny, perhaps from the wood smoke, perhaps from something
else. Olivier leaned back, surprised to feel his thirty-eight-year-old
body suddenly aching, and realized he'd sat tense through the whole awful
"I'm sorry. It's
getting late and Gabri will be worried. I have to go."
Olivier got up and
pumping cold, fresh water into the enamel sink he cleaned his cup. Then
he turned back to the room.
"I'll be back
soon," he smiled.
"Let me give
you something," said the Hermit, looking around the log cabin. Olivier's
gaze darted to the corner where the small canvas sack sat. Unopened. A
bit of twine keeping it closed.
A chuckle came from
the Hermit. "One day, perhaps, Olivier. But not today."
He went over to the
hand-hewn mantelpiece, picked up a tiny item and held it out to the attractive
"For the groceries."
He pointed to the tins and cheese and milk, tea and coffee and bread on
"No, I couldn't.
It's my pleasure," said Olivier, but they both knew the pantomime
and knew he'd take the small offering. "Merci," Olivier said
at the door.
In the woods there
was a furious scrambling, as a doomed creature raced to escape its fate,
and coyotes raced to seal it.
said the old man, quickly scanning the night sky. Then, before closing
the door, he whispered the single word that was quickly devoured by the
woods. Olivier wondered if the Hermit crossed himself and mumbled prayers,
leaning against the door, which was thick but perhaps not quite thick
And he wondered if
the old man believed the stories of the great and grim army with Chaos
looming and leading the Furies. Inexorable, unstoppable. Close.
And behind them something
else. Something unspeakable.
And he wondered if
the Hermit believed the prayers.
Olivier flicked on
his flashlight, scanning the darkness. Gray tree trunks crowded round.
He shone the light here and there, trying to find the narrow path through
the late summer forest. Once on the trail he hurried. And the more he
hurried the more frightened he became, and the more fearful he grew the
faster he ran until he was stumbling, chased by dark words through the
He finally broke through
the trees and staggered to a stop, hands on his bent knees, heaving for
breath. Then, slowly straightening, he looked down on the village in the
Three Pines was asleep,
as it always seemed to be. At peace with itself and the world. Oblivious
of what happened around it. Or perhaps aware of everything, but choosing
peace anyway. Soft light glowed at some of the windows. Curtains were
drawn in bashful old homes. The sweet scent of the first autumn fires
wafted to him.
And in the very center
of the little Quebec village there stood three great pines, like watchmen.
Olivier was safe.
Then he felt his pocket.
The gift. The tiny
payment. He'd left it behind.
Cursing, Olivier turned
to look into the forest that had closed behind him. And he thought again
of the small canvas bag in the corner of the cabin. The thing the Hermit
had teased him with, promised him, dangled before him. The thing a hiding
Olivier was tired,
and fed up and angry at himself for forgetting the trinket. And angry
at the Hermit for not giving him the other thing. The thing he'd earned
He hesitated, then
turning he plunged back into the forest, feeling his fear growing and
feeding the rage. And as he walked, then ran, a voice followed, beating
behind him. Driving him on.
"Chaos is here,
THE BRUTAL TELLING.
Copyright 2009 by Louise Penny.
A RULE AGAINST MURDER
/ THE MURDER STONE (Chapter 1)
In the height of summer
the guests descended on the isolated lodge by the lake, summoned to the
Manoir Belle-chasse by identical vellum invitations, addressed in the
familiar spider scrawl as though written in cobwebs. Thrust through mail
slots, the heavy paper had thudded to the floor of impressive homes in
Vancouver and Toronto, and a small brick cottage in Three Pines.
The mailman had carried
it in his bag through the tiny Quebec village, taking his time. Best not
to exert yourself in this heat, he told himself, pausing to remove his
hat and wipe his dripping head. Union rules. But the actual reason for
his lethargy wasnt the beating and brilliant sun, but something
more private. He always lingered in Three Pines. He wandered slowly by
the perennial beds of roses and lilies and thrusting bold foxglove. He
helped kids spot frogs at the pond on the green. He sat on warm fieldstone
walls and watched the old village go about its business. It added hours
to his day and made him the last courier back to the terminal. He was
mocked and kidded by his fellows for being so slow and he suspected that
was the reason hed never been promoted. For two decades or more
hed taken his time. Instead of hurrying, he strolled through Three
Pines talking to people as they walked their dogs, often joining them
for lemonade or thé glacé outside the bistro. Or café
au lait in front of the roaring fire in winter.
Sometimes the villagers,
knowing he was having lunch at the bistro, would come by and pick up their
own mail. And chat for a moment. He brought news from other villages on
his route, like a travelling minstrel in medieval times, with news of
plague or war or flood, someplace else. But never here in this lovely
and peaceful village. It always amused him to imagine that Three Pines,
nestled among the mountains and surrounded by Canadian forest, was disconnected
from the outside world. It certainly felt that way. It was a relief.
And so he took his
time. This day he held a bundle of envelopes in his sweaty hand, hoping
he wasnt marring the perfect, quite lovely thick paper of the top
letter. Then the handwriting caught his eye and his pace slowed still
further. After decades as a mail carrier he knew he delivered more than
just letters. In his years, he knew, hed dropped bombs along his
route. Great good news: children born, lotteries won, distant, wealthy
aunts dead. But he was a good and sensitive man, and he knew he was also
the bearer of bad news. It broke his heart to think of the pain he sometimes
caused, especially in this village.
He knew what he held
in his hand now was that, and more. It wasnt, perhaps, total telepathy
that informed his certainty, but also an unconscious ability to read handwriting.
Not simply the words, but the thrust behind them. The simple, mundane
three- line address on the envelope told him more than where to deliver
the letter. The hand was old, he could tell, and infirm. Crippled not
just by age, but by rage. No good would come from this thing he held.
And he suddenly wanted to be rid of it.
His intention had
been to wander over to the bistro and have a cold beer and a sandwich,
chat with the owner Olivier and see if anyone came for their mail, for
he was also just a little bit lazy. But suddenly he was energized. Astonished
villagers saw a sight unique to them, the postman hurrying. He stopped
and turned and walked briskly away from the bistro, toward a rusty mailbox
in front of a brick cottage overlooking the village green. As he opened
the mouth of the box it screamed. He couldnt blame it. He thrust
the letter in and quickly closed the shrieking door. It surprised him
that the battered metal box didnt gag a little and spew the wretched
thing back. Hed come to see his letters as living things, and the
boxes as kinds of pets. And hed done something terrible to this
particular box. And these people.
Had Armand Gamache
been blindfolded hed have known exactly where he was. It was the
scent. That combination of woodsmoke, old books and honeysuckle.
Madame Gamache, quel plaisir." Clementine Dubois waddled around the
reception desk at the Manoir Bellechasse, skin like wings hanging from
her outstretched arms and quivering so that she looked like a bird or
a withered angel as she approached, her intentions clear. Reine-Marie
Gamache met her, her own arms without hope of meeting about the substantial
woman. They embraced and kissed on each cheek. When Gamache had exchanged
hugs and kisses with Madame Dubois she stepped back and surveyed the couple.
Before her she saw Reine-Marie, short, not plump but not trim either,
hair graying and face settling into the middle years of a life fully lived.
She was lovely without being actually pretty. What the French called soignée.
She wore a tailored deep blue skirt to mid- calf and a crisp white shirt.
Simple, elegant, classic.
The man was tall and
powerfully built. In his mid- fifties and not yet going to fat, but showing
evidence of a life lived with good books, wonderful food and leisurely
walks. He looked like a professor, though Clementine Dubois knew he was
not that. His hair was receding and where once it had been wavy and dark,
now it was thinning on top and graying over the ears and down the sides
where it curled a little over the collar. He was clean- shaven except
for a trim moustache. He wore a navy jacket, khaki slacks and a soft blue
shirt, with tie. Always immaculate, even in the gathering heat of this
late June day. But what was most striking were his eyes. Deep, warm brown.
He carried calm with him as other men wore cologne.
"But you look
Most innkeepers would
have exclaimed, "But you look lovely." "Mais, voyons, you
never change, you two." Or even, "You look younger than ever,"
knowing how old ears never tire of hearing that.
But while the Gamaches
ears couldnt yet be considered old, they were tired. It had been
a long year and their ears had heard more than they cared to. And, as
always, the Gamaches had come to the Manoir Bellechasse to leave all that
behind. While the rest of the world celebrated the New Year in January,
the Gamaches celebrated at the height of summer, when they visited this
blessed place, retreated from the world, and began anew.
"We are a little
weary," admitted Reine-Marie, subsiding gratefully into the comfortable
wing chair at the reception desk.
"Bon, well well
soon take care of that." Now, Madame Dubois gracefully swivelled
back behind the desk in a practiced move and sat at her own comfortable
chair. Pulling the ledger toward her she put on her glasses. "Where
have we put you?"
Armand Gamache took
the chair beside his wife and they exchanged glances. They knew if they
looked in that same ledger theyd find their signatures, once a year,
stretching back to a June day more than thirty years ago when young Armand
had saved his money and brought Reine-Marie here. For one night. In the
tiniest of rooms at the very back of the splendid old Manoir. Without
a view of the mountains or the lake or the perennial gardens lush with
fresh peonies and first-bloom roses. Hed saved for months, wanting
that visit to be special. Wanting Reine-Marie to know how much he loved
her, how precious she was to him.
And so theyd
lain together for the first time, the sweet scent of the forest and kitchen
thyme and lilac drifting almost visible through the screened window. But
the loveliest scent of all was her, fresh and warm in his strong arms.
Hed written a love note to her that night. Hed covered her
softly with their simple white sheet, then, sitting in the cramped rocking
chair, not daring to actually rock in case he whacked the wall behind
or barked his shins on the bed in front, disturbing Reine-Marie, hed
watched her breathe. Then on Manoir Bellechasse notepaper hed written,
My love knows no
How can a man contain
My heart and soul
have come alive
My love for you
All night he wrote
and next morning, taped to the bathroom mirror, Reine-Marie found the
I love you.
had been there even then, massive and wobbly and smiling. Shed been
old then and each year Gamache worried hed call for a reservation
to hear an unfamiliar crisp voice say. "Bonjour, Manoir Belle-chasse.
Puis-je vous aider?" Instead hed heard, "Monsieur Gamache,
what a plea sure. Are you coming to visit us again, I hope?" Like
going to Grandmas. Albeit a grander grandmas than hed
And while Gamache
and Reine-Marie had certainly changed, marrying, having two children and
now a granddaughter and another grandchild on the way, Clementine Dubois
never seemed to age or diminish. And neither did her love, the Manoir.
It was as though the two were one, both kind and loving, comforting and
welcoming. And mysteriously and delightfully unchanging in a world that
seemed to change so fast. And not always for the better.
wrong?" Reine-Marie asked, noticing the look on Madame Duboiss
"I must be getting
old," she said and looked up, her violet eyes upset. .Gamache smiled
reassuringly. By his calculations she must be at least a hundred and twenty.
"If you have
no room, dont worry. We can come back another week," he said.
It was only a two- hour drive into the Eastern Townships of Quebec from
their home in Montreal.
"Oh, I have a
room, but Id hoped to have something better. When you called for
reservations I should have saved the Lake Room for you, the one you had
last year. But the Manoirs full up. One family, the Finneys, has
taken the other five rooms. Theyre here"
She stopped suddenly
and dropped her eyes to the ledger in an act so wary and uncharacteristic
the Gamaches exchanged glances.
here . . . ?" Gamache prompted after the silence stretched on.
"Well, it doesnt
matter, plenty of time for that," she said, looking up and smiling
reassuringly. "Im sorry about not saving the best room for
you two, though."
"Had we wanted
the Lake Room, wed have asked," said Reine-Marie. "You
know Armand, this is his one flutter with uncertainty. Wild man."
laughed, knowing that not to be true. She knew the man in front of her
lived with great uncertainty every day of his life. Which was why she
deeply wanted their annual visits to the Manoir to be filled with luxury
and comfort. And peace.
"We never specify
the room, madame," said Gamache, his voice deep and warm. "Do
you know why?"
Madame Dubois shook
her head. Shed long been curious, but never wanted to cross- examine
her guests, especially this one. "Everyone else does," she said.
"In fact, this whole family asked for free upgrades. Arrived in Mercedes
and BMWs and asked for upgrades." She smiled. Not meanly, but with
some bafflement that people who had so much wanted more.
"We like to leave
it up to the fates," he said. She examined his face to see if he
was joking, but thought he probably wasnt. "Were perfectly
happy with what were given."
see another day, and
always surprised to be here, in this old lodge, by the sparkling shores
of this freshwater lake, surrounded by forests and streams, gardens and
guests. It was her home, and guests were like family. Though Madame Dubois
knew, from bitter experience, you cant always choose, or like, your
"Here it is."
She dangled an old brass key from a long keychain. "The Forest Room.
Its at the back, Im afraid."
"We know where it is, merci."
One day rolled gently
into the next as the Gamaches swam in Lac Massawippi and went for leisurely
walks through the fragrant woods. They read and chatted amicably with
the other guests and slowly got to know them.
Up until a few days
ago theyd never met the Finneys, but now they were cordial companions
at the isolated lodge. Like experienced travellers on a cruise, the guests
were neither too remote nor too familiar. They didnt even know what
the others did for a living, which was fine with Armand Gamache.
It was mid- afternoon
and Gamache was watching a bee scramble around a particularly blowsy pink
rose when a movement caught his attention. He turned in his chaise longue
and watched as the son, Thomas, and his wife Sandra walked from the lodge
into the startling sunshine. Sandra brought a slim hand up and placed
huge black sunglasses on her face, so that she looked a little like a
fly. She seemed an alien in this place, certainly not someone in her natural
habitat. Gamache supposed her to be in her late fifties, early sixties,
though she was clearly trying to pass for considerably less. Funny, he
thought, how dyed hair, heavy make- up and young clothes actually made
a person look older.
They walked on to
the lawn, Sandras heels aerating the grass, and paused, as though
expecting applause. But the only sound Gamache could hear came from the
bee, whose wings were making a muffled raspberry sound in the rose.
Thomas stood on the
brow of the slight hill rolling
down to the lake,
an admiral on the bridge. His piercing
blue eyes surveyed
the water, like Nelson at Trafalgar.
Gamache realized that
every time he saw Thomas he
thought of a man preparing
for battle. Thomas Finney was
in his early sixties
and certainly handsome. Tall and dis
tinguished with gray
hair and noble features. But in the
few days theyd
shared the lodge Gamache had also noted
a hint of irony in
the man, a quiet sense of humor. He was
arrogant and entitled,
but he seemed to know it and be
able to laugh at himself.
It was very becoming and
Gamache found himself
warming to him. Though on this
hot day he was warming
to everything, especially the old
Life magazine whose
ink was coming off on his sweaty
hands. Looking down
he saw, tattooed to his palm, .
Thomas and Sandra
had walked straight past his elderly parents who were lounging on the
shaded porch. Gamache marvelled yet again at the ability of this family
to make each other invisible. As Gamache watched over his half- moon glasses,
Thomas and Sandra surveyed the people dotted around the garden and along
the shore of the lake. Julia Martin, the older sister and a few years
younger than Thomas, was sitting alone on the dock in an Adirondack chair,
reading. She wore a simple white one-piece bathing suit. In her late fifties
she was slim and gleamed like a trophy as though shed slathered
herself in cooking oil. She seemed to sizzle in the sun, and with a wince
Gamache could imagine her skin beginning to crackle. Every now and then
Julia would lower her book and gaze across the calm lake. Thinking. Gamache
knew enough about Julia Martin to know she had a great deal to think about.
On the lawn leading
down to the lake were the rest of the family, the younger sister Marianna
and her child, Bean. Where Thomas and Julia were slim and attractive,
Marianna was short and plump and unmistakably ugly. It was as though she
was the negative to their positive. Her
clothes seemed to
have a grudge against her and either slipped off or scrunched around awkwardly
so that she was constantly rearranging herself, pulling and tugging and
And yet the child,
Bean, was extremely attractive, with long blond hair, bleached almost
white in the sun, thick dark lashes and brilliant blue eyes. At that moment
Mari-anna appeared to be doing tai chi, though with movements of
her own making.
a crane. Mommys a crane."
The plump woman stood
on one leg, arms reaching for the sky and neck stretched to its limits.
Ten- year- old Bean
ignored Mommy and continued to read. Gamache wondered how bored the child
most difficult position," Marianna said more loudly than necessary,
almost throttling herself with one of her scarves. Gamache had noticed
that Mariannas tai chi and yoga and meditations and military
calisthenics only happened when Thomas appeared.
Was she trying to
impress her older brother, Gamache wondered, or embarrass him? Thomas
took a quick glance at the pudgy, collapsing crane and steered Sandra
in the other direction. They found two chairs in the shade, alone.
not spying on them, are you?" Reine-Marie asked, lowering her book
to look at her husband.
"Spying is far
too harsh. Im observing."
you supposed to stop that?" Then after a moment she added, "Anything
He laughed and shook
his head. "Nothing."
said Reine-Marie, looking around at the scattered Finneys. "Odd family
that comes all this way for a reunion then ignores each other."
"Could be worse,"
he said. "They could be killing each other."
"Theyd never get close enough to manage it."
Gamache grunted his
agreement and realized happily
that he didnt
care. It was their problem, not his. Besides, after a few days together
hed become fond of the Finneys in a funny sort of way.
glacé, madame." The young man spoke French with a delightful
English Canadian accent.
Reine-Marie shaded her eyes from the afternoon sun and smiled at the waiter.
He beamed and handed a tall glass of iced tea to Reine-Marie and a perspiring
glass of misty lemonade to Gamache, then went off to deliver the rest
of his drinks.
"I remember when
I was that young," said Gamache wistfully.
"You might have
been that young but you were never that" She nodded toward
Elliot as he walked athletically across the manicured lawn in his tailored
black slacks and small white jacket snugly fitting his body.
"Oh, God, am
I going to have to beat up another suitor?"
"You know I would."
He took her hand.
"I know you wouldnt.
Youd listen him to death."
a strategy. Crush him with my massive intellect."
"I can imagine
Gamache sipped his
lemonade and suddenly puckered, tears springing to his eyes.
"Ah, and what
woman could resist that?" She looked at his fluttering, watering
eyes and face screwed into a wince.
sugar," he gasped.
ask the waiter."
Ill do it." He coughed, gave her a mockingly stern gaze and
rocked out of the deep and comfortable seat.
Taking his lemonade
he wandered up the path from the fragrant gardens and onto the wide veranda,
already cooler and shaded from the brunt of the afternoon sun. Bert Finney
lowered his book and gazed at Gamache, then smiled and nodded politely.
Excerpted from A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny.
Copyright © 2008 by Louise Penny.
Published in September 2009 by St. Martins Press.
THE CRUELLEST MONTH
Kneeling in the fragrant
moist grass of the village green Clara Morrow carefully hid the Easter
egg and thought about raisingthe dead, which she planned to do right after
supper. Wiping a strand of hair from her face, she smeared bits of grass,
mudand some other brown stuff that might not be mud into her tangled hair.
All around, villagers wandered with their basketsof brightly colored eggs,
looking for the perfect hiding places. Ruth Zardo sat on the bench in
the middle of the green tossingthe eggs at random, though occasionally
she'd haul off and peg someone in the back of the head or on the bottom.
She had disconcertinglygood aim for someone so old and so nuts, thought
'You going tonight?'
Clara asked, trying to distract the old poet from taking aim at Monsieur
'Are you kidding?
Live people are bad enough; why would I want to bring one back from the
With that Ruth whacked
Monsieur Béliveau in the back of his head. Fortunately the village
grocer was wearing a cloth cap.It was also fortunate he had great affection
for the white-haired ramrod on the bench. Ruth chose her victims well.
They werealmost always people who cared for her.
Normally being pelted
by a chocolate Easter egg wouldn't be a big deal, but these weren't chocolate.
They'd made that mistakeonly once.
A few years earlier,
when the village of Three Pines first decided to have an egg hunt on Easter
Sunday, there'd been greatexcitement. The villagers met at Olivier's Bistro
and over drinks and Brie they divvied up bags of chocolate eggs to be
hidden the next day. 'Ooohs' and 'Aaaaahs' tinged with envy filled the
air. Would that theywere children again. But their pleasure would surely
come from seeing the faces of the village children. Besides, the kidsmight
not find them all, especially those hidden behind Olivier's bar.
Gabri picked up a tiny marzipan goose, delicately sculpted, then bit its
'Gabri.' His partner
Olivier yanked what was left of the goose from Gabri's massive hand. 'They're
for the kids.'
'You just want it
for yourself.' Gabri turned to Myrna and muttered so that everyone could
hear, 'Great idea. Gay men offeringchocolates to children. Let's alert
the Moral Majority.'
Blond and bashful,
Olivier blushed furiously.
Myrna smiled. She
looked like a massive Easter egg herself, black and oval and wrapped in
a brilliant purple and red caftan.
Most of the tiny village
was at the bistro, crowded around the long bar of polished wood, though
some had flopped down inthe comfortable old armchairs scattered about.
All for sale. Olivier's was also an antique shop. Discreet tags dangled
fromeverything, including Gabri when he felt under-appreciated and under-applauded.
It was early April
and fires crackled cheerily in the open grates, throwing warm light on
the wide-plank pine floors, stainedamber by time and sunlight. Waiters
moved effortlessly through the beamed room, offering drinks and soft,
runny Brie fromMonsieur Pagé's farm. The bistro was at the heart
of the old Quebec village, sitting as it did on the edge of the green.
Oneither side of it and attached by connecting doors were the rest of
the shops, hugging the village in an aged brick embrace.Monsieur Béliveau's
general store, Sarah's Boulangerie, then the bistro and finally, just
off that, Myrna's Livres, Neufset Usagés. Three craggy pine trees
had stood at the far end of the green for as long as anyone remembered,
like wise men who'dfound what they were looking for. Outward from the
village, dirt roads radiated and meandered into the mountains and forests.
But Three Pines itself
was a village forgotten. Time eddied and swirled and sometimes bumped
into it, but never stayed longand never left much of an impression. For
hundreds of years the village had nestled in the palm of the rugged Canadian
mountains,protected and hidden and rarely found except by accident. Sometimes,
a weary traveler crested the hill and looking down saw,like Shangri-La,
the welcoming circle of old homes. Some were weathered fieldstone built
by settlers clearing the land ofdeeply rooted trees and back-breaking
stones. Others were red brick and built by United Empire Loyalists desperate
for sanctuary.And some had the swooping metal roofs of the Québécois
home with their intimate gables and broad verandas. And at the farend
was Olivier's Bistro, offering café au lait and fresh-baked croissants,
conversation and company and kindness. Once found, Three Pines was never
forgotten. But it wasonly ever found by people lost.
Myrna looked over
at her friend Clara Morrow, who was sticking out her tongue. Myrna stuck
hers out too. Clara rolled hereyes. Myrna rolled hers, taking a seat beside
Clara on the soft sofa facing the fireplace.
'You weren't smoking
garden mulch again while I was in Montreal, were you?'
'Not this time,' Clara
laughed. 'You have something on your nose.'
Myrna felt around,
found something and examined it. 'Mmm, it's either chocolate, or skin.
Only one way to find out.'
She popped it in her
'God.' Clara winced.
'And you wonder why you're single.'
'I don't wonder.'
Myrna smiled. 'I don't need a man to complete me.'
'Oh really? What about
'Ah, Raoul,' said
Myrna dreamily. 'He was a sweet.'
'He was a gummy bear,'
'He completed me,'
said Myrna. 'And then some.' She patted her middle, large and generous,
like the woman herself.
'Look at this.' A
razor voice cut through conversation.
Ruth Zardo stood in
the center of the bistro holding aloft a chocolate rabbit as though it
were a grenade. It was made ofrich dark chocolate, its long ears perky
and alert, its face so real Clara half expected it to twitch its delicate
candy whiskers.In its paws it held a basket woven from white and milk
chocolate, and in that basket sat a dozen candy eggs, beautifully decorated.It
was lovely and Clara prayed Ruth wasn't about to toss it at someone.
'It's a bunny rabbit,'
snarled the elderly poet.
'I eat them too,'
said Gabri to Myrna. 'It's a habit. A rabbit habit.'
Myrna laughed and
immediately wished she hadn't. Ruth turned her glare on her.
'Ruth.' Clara stood
up and approached cautiously, holding her husband Peter's Scotch as enticement.
'Let the bunny go.'
It was a sentence
she'd never said before.
'It's a rabbit,' Ruth
repeated as though to slow children. 'So what's it doing with these?'
She pointed to the
'Since when do rabbits
have eggs?' Ruth persisted, looking at the bewildered villagers. 'Never
thought of that, eh? Where did it get them? Presumably from chocolate
chickens. The bunny musthave stolen the eggs from candy chickens who're
searching for their babies. Frantic.'
The funny thing was,
as the old poet spoke Clara could actually imagine chocolate chickens
running around desperate to findtheir eggs. Eggs stolen by the Easter
With that Ruth dropped
the chocolate bunny to the floor, shattering it.
'Oh, God,' said Gabri,
running to pick it up. 'That was for Olivier.'
'Really?' said Olivier,
forgetting he himself had bought it.
'This is a strange
holiday,' said Ruth ominously. 'I've never liked it.'
'And now it's mutual,'
said Gabri, holding the fractured rabbit as though an adored and wounded
child. He's so tender, thoughtClara not for the first time. Gabri was
so big, so overwhelming, it was easy to forget how sensitive he was. Until
momentslike these when he gently held a dying chocolate bunny.
'How do we celebrate
Easter?' the old poet demanded, yanking Peter's Scotch from Clara and
downing it. 'We hunt eggs and eathot cross buns.'
'Mais, we go to St
Thomas's too,' said Monsieur Béliveau.
'More people go to
Sarah's Boulangerie than ever show up at church,' snapped Ruth. 'They
buy pastry with an instrument oftorture on it. I know you think I'm crazy,
but maybe I'm the only sane one here.'
And on that disconcerting
note she limped to the door, then turned back.
'Don't put those chocolate
eggs out for the children. Something bad will happen.'
And like Jeremiah,
the weeping prophet, she was right. Something bad did happen.
Next morning the eggs
had vanished. All that could be found were wrappers. At first the villagers
suspected older children,or perhaps even Ruth, had sabotaged the event.
'Look at this,' said
Peter, holding up the shredded remains of a chocolate bunny box. 'Teeth
marks. And claws.'
'So it was Ruth,'
said Gabri, taking the box and examining it.
'See here.' Clara
raced after a candy wrapper blowing across the village green. 'Look, it's
all ripped apart as well.'
After spending the
morning hunting Easter egg wrappers and cleaning up the mess, most villagers
trudged back to Olivier'sto warm themselves by the fire.
'Now, really,' said
Ruth to Clara and Peter over lunch at the bistro. 'Couldn't you see that
'I admit it seems
obvious,' Peter laughed, cutting into his golden croque-monsieur, the
melted Camembert barely holding the maple-smoked ham and flaky croissant
together. Around him anxious parents buzzed,trying to bribe crying children.
'Every wild animal
within miles must have been in the village last night,' said Ruth, slowly
swirling the ice cubes in herScotch. 'Eating Easter eggs. Foxes, raccoons,
'Bears,' said Myrna,
joining their table. 'Jesus, that's pretty scary. All those starving bears,
rising from their dens, ravenousafter hibernating all winter.'
'Imagine their surprise
to find chocolate eggs and bunnies,' said Clara, between mouthfuls of
creamy seafood chowder withchunks of salmon and scallops and shrimp. She
took a crusty baguette and twisted off a piece, spreading it with Olivier'sspecial
sweet butter. 'The bears must have wondered what miracle had happened
while they slept.'
'Not everything that
rises up is a miracle,' said Ruth, lifting her eyes from the amber liquid,
her lunch, and looking outthe mullioned windows. 'Not everything that
comes back to life is meant to. This is a strange time of year. Rain one
day,snow the next. Nothing's certain. It's unpredictable.'
'Every season's unpredictable,'
said Peter. 'Hurricanes in fall, snowstorms in winter.'
'But you've just proved
my point,' said Ruth. 'You can name the threat. We all know what to expect
in other seasons. But notspring. The worst flooding happens in spring.
Forest fires, killing frosts, snowstorms and mud slides. Nature's in turmoil.Anything
'The most achingly
beautiful days happen in spring too,' said Clara.
'True, the miracle
of rebirth. I hear whole religions are based on the concept. But some
things are better off buried.' Theold poet got up and downed her Scotch.
'It's not over yet. The bears will be back.'
'I would be too,'
said Myrna, 'if I'd suddenly found a village made of chocolate.'
Clara smiled, but
her eyes were on Ruth, who for once didn't radiate anger or annoyance.
Instead Clara caught something farmore disconcerting.
THE CRUELLEST MONTH
Copyright 2007 Louise Penny
A FATAL GRACE / DEAD
COLD (Chapter 1)
Had CC de Poitiers
known she was going to be murdered she might have bought her husband,
Richard, a Christmas gift. She might even have gone to her daughter's
end of term pageant at Miss Edward's School for Girls, or 'girths' as
CC liked to tease her expansive daughter. Had CC de Poitiers known the
end was near she might have been at work instead of in the cheapest room
the Ritz in Montreal had to offer. But the only end she knew was near
belonged to a man named Saul. 'So, what do you think? Do you like it?'
She balanced her book on her pallid stomach.
Saul looked at it,
not for the first time. She'd dragged it out of her huge purse every five
minutes for the past few days. In busi¬¨ness meetings, dinners,
taxi rides through the snowy streets of Montreal, CC'd suddenly bend down
and emerge triumphant, holding her creation as though another virgin birth.
'I like the picture,'
he said, knowing the insult. He'd taken the picture. He knew she was asking,
pleading, for more and he knew he no longer cared to give it. And he wondered
how much longer he could be around CC de Poitiers before he became her.
Not physically, of course. At forty-eight she was a few years younger
than him. She was slim and ropy and toned, her teeth impossibly white
and her hair impossibly blonde. Touching her was like caressing a veneer
of ice. There was a beauty to it, and a frailty he found attractive. But
there was also danger. If she ever broke, if she shattered, she'd tear
him to pieces.
But her exterior wasn't
the issue. Watching her caress her book with more tenderness than she'd
ever shown when caressing him, he wondered whether her ice water insides
had somehow seeped into him, perhaps during sex, and were slowly freezing
him. Already he couldn't feel his core.
At fifty-two Saul
Petrov was just beginning to notice his friends weren't quite as brilliant,
not quite as clever, not quite as slim as they once were. In fact, most
had begun to bore him. And he'd noticed a telltale yawn or two from them
as well. They were growing thick and bald and dull, and he suspected he
was too. It wasn't so bad that women rarely looked at him any more or
that he'd begun to consider trading his downhill skis for cross country,
or that his GP had scheduled his first prostate test. He could accept
all that. What woke Saul Petrov at two in the morning, and whispered in
his ears in the voice that had warned him as a child that lions lived
under his bed, was the certainty that people now found him boring. He'd
take deep dark breaths of the night air, trying to reassure himself that
the stifled yawn of his dinner companion was because of the wine or the
magret de canard or the warmth in the Montreal restaurant, wrapped as
they were in their sensible winter sweaters. But still the night voice
growled and warned of dangers ahead. Of impending disaster. Of telling
tales too long, of an attention span too short, of seeing the whites of
too many eyes. Of glances, fast and discreet, at watches. When can they
reasonably leave him? Of eyes scanning the room, desperate for more stimulating
And so he'd allowed
himself to be seduced by CC. Seduced and devoured so that the lion under
the bed had become the lion in the bed. He'd begun to suspect this self-absorbed
woman had finally finished absorbing herself, her husband and even that
disaster of a daughter and was now busy absorbing him.
He'd already become
cruel in her company. And he'd begun despising himself. But not quite
as much as he despised her.
'It's a brilliant
book,' she said, ignoring him. 'I mean, really. Who wouldn't want this?'
She waved it in his face. 'People'll eat it up. There're so many troubled
people out there.' She turned now and actually looked out their hotel
room window at the building opposite, as though surveying her 'people'.
'I did this for them.' Now she turned back to him, her eyes wide and sincere.
Does she believe it?
He'd read the book,
of course. Be Calm she'd called it, after the company she'd founded a
few years ago, which was a laugh given the bundle of nerves she actually
was. The anxious, nervous hands, constantly smoothing and straightening.
The snippy responses, the impatience that spilled over into anger.
Calm was not a word
anyone would apply to CC de Poitiers, despite her placid, frozen exterior.
She'd shopped the
book around to all the publishers, beginning with the top publishing houses
in New York and ending with Publications Réjean et Maison des cartes
in St Polycarpe, a onevache village along the highway between Montreal
and Toronto. They'd all said no, immediately recognizing the manuscript
as a flaccid mishmash of ridiculous self-help philosophies, wrapped in
half-baked Buddhist and Hindu teachings, spewed forth by a woman whose
cover photo looked as though she'd eat her young. 'No goddamned enlightenment,'
she'd said to Saul in her Montreal office the day a batch of rejection
letters arrived, ripping them into pieces and dropping them on the floor
for the hired help to clean up. 'This world is messed up, I tell you.
People are cruel and insensitive, they're out to screw each other. There's
no love or compassion. This', she sliced her book violently in the air
like an ancient mythical hammer, heading for an unforgiving anvil, 'will
teach people how to find happiness.' Her voice was low, the words staggering
under the weight of venom. She'd gone on to self-publish her book, making
sure it was out in time for Christmas. And while the book talked a lot
about light Saul found it interesting and ironic that it had actually
been released on the winter solstice. The darkest day of the year.
'Who published it
again?' He couldn't seem to help himself. She was silent. 'Oh, I remember
now,' he said. 'No one wanted it. That must have been horrible.' He paused
for a moment, wondering whether to twist the knife. Oh, what the hell.
Might as well. 'How'd that make you feel?' Did he imagine the wince?
But her silence remained,
eloquent, her face impassive. Anything CC didn't like didn't exist. That
included her husband and her daughter. It included any unpleasantness,
any criticism, any harsh words not her own, any emotions. CC lived, Saul
knew, in her own world, where she was perfect, where she could hide her
feelings and hide her failings.
He wondered how long
before that world would explode. He hoped he'd be around to see it. But
not too close.
People are cruel and
insensitive, she'd said. Cruel and insensitive. It wasn't all that long
ago, before he'd taken the contract to freelance as CC's photographer
and lover, that he'd actually thought the world a beautiful place. Each
morning he'd wake early and go into the young day, when the world was
new and anything was possible, and he'd see how lovely Montreal was. He'd
see people smiling at each other as they got their cappuccinos at the
café, or their fresh flowers or their baguettes. He'd see the children
in autumn gathering the fallen chestnuts to play conkers. He'd see the
elderly women walking arm in arm down the Main.
He wasn't foolish
or blind enough not to also see the homeless men and women, or the bruised
and battered faces that spoke of a long and empty night and a longer day
But at his core he
believed the world a lovely place. And his photographs reflected that,
catching the light, the brilliance, the hope. And the shadows that naturally
challenged the light.
Ironically it was
this very quality that had caught CC's eye and led her to offer him the
contract. An article in a Montreal style magazine had described him as
a 'hot' photographer, and CC always went for the best. Which was why they
always took a room at the Ritz. A cramped, dreary room on a low floor
without view or charm, but the Ritz. CC would collect the shampoos and
stationery to prove her worth, just as she'd collected him. And she'd
use them to make some obscure point to people who didn't care, just as
she'd use him. And then, eventually, everything would be discarded. As
her husband had been tossed aside, as her daughter was ignored and ridiculed.
The world was a cruel
and insensitive place.
And he now believed
He hated CC de Poitiers.
He got out of bed,
leaving CC to stare at her book, her real lover. He looked at her and
she seemed to go in and out of focus.
He cocked his head
to one side and wondered whether he'd had too much to drink again. But
still she seemed to grow fuzzy, then sharp, as though he was looking through
a prism at two different women, one beautiful, glamorous, vivacious, and
the other a pathetic, dyed-blonde rope, all corded and wound and knotted
and rough. And dangerous.
'What's this?' He
reached into the garbage and withdrew a portfolio. He recognized it immediately
as an artist's dossier of work. It was beautifully and painstakingly bound
and printed on archival Arche paper. He flipped it open and caught his
breath. A series of works, luminous and light, seemed to glow off the
fine paper. He felt a stirring in his chest. They showed a world both
lovely and hurt. But mostly, it was a world where hope and comfort still
existed. It was clearly the world the artist saw each day, the world the
artist lived in. As he himself once lived in a world of light and hope.
The works appeared
simple but were in reality very complex. Images and colors were layered
one on top of the other. Hours and hours, days and days must have been
spent on each one to get the desired effect.
He stared down at
the one before him now. A majestic tree soared into the sky, as though
keening for the sun. The artist had photographed it and had somehow captured
a sense of movement without making it disorienting. Instead it was graceful
and calming and, above all, powerful. The tips of the branches seemed
to melt or become fuzzy as though even in its confidence and yearning
there was a tiny doubt. It was brilliant.
All thoughts of CC
were forgotten. He'd climbed into the tree, almost feeling tickled by
its rough bark, as if he had been sitting on his grandfather's lap and
snuggling into his unshaven face. How had the artist managed that?
He couldn't make out
the signature. He flipped through the other pages and slowly felt a smile
come to his frozen face and move to his hardened heart.
Maybe, one day, if
he ever got clear of CC he could go back to his work and do pieces like
He exhaled all the
darkness he'd stored up.
'So, do you like it?'
CC held her book up and waved it at him.
Copyright Louise Penny
STILL LIFE (Chapter
Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving
Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round. Miss Neal's was not a
natural death, unless you're of the belief everything happens as it's
supposed to. If so, for her seventy-six years Jane Neal had been walking
toward this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods
on the verge of the village of Three Pines. She'd fallen spread-eagled,
as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec knelt
down; his knees cracking like the report of a hunter's rifle, his large,
expressive hands hovering over the tiny circle of blood marring her fluffy
cardigan, as though like a magician he could remove the wound and restore
the woman. But he could not. That wasn't his gift. Fortunately for Gamache
he had others. The scent of mothballs, his grandmother's perfume, met
him halfway. Jane's gentle and kindly eyes stared as though surprised
to see him.
He was surprised to see her. That was his little secret.Not that he'd
ever seen her before. No. His little secret was that in his mid-fifties,
at the height of a long and now apparently stalled career, violent death
still surprised him. Which was odd, for the head of homicide, and perhaps
one of the reasons he hadn't progressed further in the cynical world of
the Sûreté. Gamache always hoped maybe someone had gotten
it wrong, and there was no dead body. But there was no mistaking the increasingly
rigid Miss Neal. Straightening up with the help of Inspector Beauvoir,
he buttoned his lined Burberry against the October chill and wondered.
Jane Neal had also been late, but in a whole other sense, a few days earlier.
She'd arranged to meet her dear friend and next-door neighbor Clara Morrow
for coffee in the village bistro. Clara sat at the table by the window
and waited. Patience was not her long suit. The mixture of café
au lait and impatience was producing an exquisite vibration. Throbbing
slightly, Clara stared out the mullioned window at the village green and
the old homes and maple trees that circled the Commons. The trees, turning
breathtaking shades of red and amber, were just about the only things
that did change in this venerable village.
Framed by the mullions, she saw a pick-up truck drift down rue du Moulin
into the village, a beautiful dappled doe draped languidly over its hood.
Slowly the truck circled the Commons, halting villagers in mid-step. This
was hunting season and hunting territory. But hunters like these were
mostly from Montreal or other cities. They'd rent pickups and stalk the
dirt roads at dawn and dusk like behemoths at feeding time, looking for
deer. And when they spotted one they'd slither to a stop, step out of
the truck and fire. Not all hunters were like that, Clara knew, but enough
of them were. Those same hunters would strap the deer on to the hood of
their truck and drive around thecountryside believing the dead animal
on the vehicle somehow announced that great men had done this.
Every year the hunters shot cows and horses and family pets and each other.
And, unbelievably, they sometimes shot themselves, perhaps in a psychotic
episode where they mistook themselves for dinner. It was a wise person
who knew that some hunters - not all, but some - found it challenging
to distinguish a pine from a partridge from a person.
Clara wondered what had become of Jane. She was rarely late, so she could
easily be forgiven. Clara found it easy to forgive most things in most
people. Too easy, her husband Peter often warned. But Clara had her own
little secret. She didn't really let go of everything. Most things, yes.
But some she secretly held and hugged and would visit in moments when
she needed to be comforted by the unkindness of others.
Croissant crumbs had tumbled on top of the Montreal Gazette left at her
table. Between flakes Clara scanned the headlines: 'Parti Quebecois Vows
to Hold Sovereignty Referendum', 'Drug Bust in Townships', 'Hikers Lost
in Tremblant Park'.
Clara lifted her eyes from the morose headlines. She and Peter had long
since stopped subscribing to the Montreal papers. Ignorance really was
bliss. They preferred the local Williamsburg County News where they could
read about Wayne's cow, or Guylaine's visiting grandchildren, or a quilt
being auctioned for the seniors' home. Every now and then Clara wondered
if they were copping out, running away from reality and responsibility.
Then she realised she didn't care. Besides, she learned everything she
really needed to survive right here at Olivier's Bistro, in the heart
of Three Pines.
'You're a million miles away,' came the familiar and well-loved voice.
There was Jane, out of breath and smiling, her laugh-lined face pink from
the autumn chill and the brisk trot from her cottage across the village
'Sorry I'm late,' she whispered into Clara's ear as the two hugged, one
tiny, plump and breathless, the other thirty years younger, slim, and
still vibrating from the caffeine high. 'You're trembling,' said Jane,
sitting down and ordering her own café au lait. 'I didn't know
you cared so much.'
'Filthy old hag,' laughed Clara.
'I was this morning, that's for sure. Did you hear what happened?'
'No, what happened?' Clara leaned forward eager for the news. She and
Peter had been in Montreal buying canvases and acrylics for their work.
Both were artists. Peter, a success. Clara as yet was undiscovered and,
most of her friends secretly felt, was likely to remain that way if she
persisted in her unfathomable works. Clara had to admit her series of
warrior uteruses were mostly lost on the buying public, though her household
items with bouffant hair and huge feet had enjoyed a certain success.
She'd sold one. The rest, roughly fifty of them, were in their basement,
which looked a lot like Walt Disney's workshop.
'No,' whispered Clara a few minutes later, genuinely shocked. In the twenty-five
years she'd lived in Three Pines she'd never, ever heard of a crime. The
only reason doors were locked was to prevent neighbors from dropping off
baskets of zucchini at harvest time. True, as the Gazette headline made
clear, there was another crop that equaled zucchini in scope: marijuana.
But those not involved tried to turn a blind eye.
Beyond that, there was no crime. No break-ins, no vandalism, no assaults.
There weren't even any police in Three Pines. Every now and then Robert
Lemieux with the local Sûreté would drive around the Commons,
just to show the colors, but there was no need.
Until that morning.
'Could it have been a joke?' Clara struggled with the ugly image Jane
'No. It was no joke,' said Jane, remembering. 'One of the boys laughed.
It was kind of familiar, now that I think of it. Not a funny laugh.' Jane
turned her clear blue eyes on Clara. Eyes full of wonderment. 'It was
a sound I'd heard as a teacher. Not often, thank God. It's the sound boys
make when they're hurting something and enjoying it.' Jane shivered at
the recollection, and pulled her cardigan around her. 'An ugly sound.
I'm glad you weren't there.'
She said this just as Clara reached across the round dark wood table and
held Jane's cold, tiny hand and wished with all her heart she had been
there instead of Jane.
'They were just kids, you say?'
'They wore ski masks, so it was hard to tell, but I think I recognised
'Who were they?'
'Philippe Croft, Gus Hennessey and Claude LaPierre,' Jane whispered the
names, looking around to make sure no one could overhear.
'Are you sure?' Clara knew all three boys. They weren't exactly the Boy
Scout types, but neither were they the sort to do this.
'No,' admitted Jane.
'Better not tell anyone else.'
'What do you mean, "too late"?'
'I said their names this morning, while it was happening.'
'Said their names in a whisper?' Clara could feel the blood tumbling from
her fingers and toes, rushing to her core, to her heart. Please, please,
please, she silently begged.
Seeing Clara's expression, Jane hurried to justify herself. 'I wanted
to stop them. It worked. They stopped.'
Jane could still see the boys running away, tripping up du Moulin, out
of the village. The one in the brilliant-green mask had turned to look
back at her. His hands were stilldripping duck manure. The manure put
there as autumn mulch for the flower beds on the village green, and not
yet spread. She wished she could have seen the boy's expression. Was he
angry? Scared? Amused?
'So you were right. About their names, I mean.'
'Probably. I never thought I'd live to see the day this would happen here.'
'So that was why you were late? You had to clean up?'
'Yes. Well, no.'
'Could you be more vague?'
'Maybe. You're on the jury for the next Arts Williamsburg show, right?'
'Yes. We're meeting this afternoon. Peter's on it too. Why?' Clara was
almost afraid to breathe. Could this be it? After all her cajoling and
gentle ribbing, and sometimes not-so-gentle shoving, was Jane about to
'I'm ready.' Jane gave the biggest exhale Clara had ever seen. The force
of it sent a squall of croissant flakes from the front page of the Gazette
on to Clara's lap.
'I was late,' said Jane slowly, her own hands beginning to tremble, 'because
I had to decide. I have a painting I'd like to enter into the show.'
With that she started to cry.
Jane's art had been an open secret in Three Pines for ever. Every now
and then someone walking in the woods or through a field would stumble
upon her, concentrating on a canvas. But she'd made them swear that they
wouldn't approach, wouldn't look, would avert their eyes as though witnessing
an act almost obscene, and certainly would never speak of it. The only
time Clara had seen Jane angry was when Gabri had come up behind her while
she'd been painting. He thought she'd been joking when she'd warned them
never to look.
He was wrong. She'd been deadly serious. It had actually taken a few months
for Jane and Gabri to get back toa normal friendship; both had felt betrayed
by the other. But their natural good nature and affection for each other
had healed the rift. Still, it had served as a lesson.
No one was to see Jane's art.
Until now, apparently. But now the artist was overcome with an emotion
so strong she sat in the Bistro and wept. Clara was both horrified and
terrified. She looked furtively around, partly in hopes no one was watching,
and partly desperately hoping someone was, and would know what to do.
Then she asked herself the simple question that she carried with her and
consulted like a rosary. What would Jane do? And she had her answer. Jane
would let her cry, would let her wail. Would let her throw crockery, if
she needed to. And Jane would not run away. When the maelstrom passed,
Jane would be there. And then she would put her arms around Clara, and
comfort her, and let her know she was not alone. Never alone. And so Clara
sat and watched and waited. And knew the agony of doing nothing. Slowly
the crying subsided.
Clara rose with exaggerated calm. She took Jane in her arms and felt the
old body creak back into place. Then she said a little prayer of thanks
to the gods that give grace. The grace to cry and the grace to watch.
'Jane, if I'd known it was this painful I'd never have kept at you to
show your art. I'm so sorry.'
'Oh, no, dear,' Jane reached across the table where they were sitting
once again, and took Clara's hands, 'you don't understand. Those weren't
tears of pain. No. I was surprised by joy.' Jane gazed far off and nodded,
as though carrying on a private conversation. 'Finally.'
'What's it called, your painting?'
'Fair Day. It's of the closing parade of the county fair.'
And so it was that on the Friday before Thanksgiving the painting was
lifted on to an easel in the gallery of ArtsWilliamsburg. It was wrapped
in butcher's paper and tied with string, like a child's bundle, against
the cold, cruel elements. Slowly, meticulously, Peter Morrow picked at
the knot, tugging the string until it came loose. Then he wound the old
string around his palm as though winding yarn. Clara could have killed
him. She was ready to shriek, to jump from her chair and shove him aside.
To fling the pathetic bundle of string to the ground, and perhaps Peter
with it, and tear the waxed paper from the canvas. Her face became even
more placid, though her eyes had begun to bulge.
Peter neatly unfolded first one corner of the paper then the other, smoothing
the creases with his hand. Clara had no idea a rectangle had so many corners.
She could feel the edge of her chair cutting into her bottom. The rest
of the jury, assembled to judge the submissions, looked bored. Clara had
enough anxiety for them all.
Every last corner was finally smooth and the paper was ready to be removed.
Peter turned around to face the other four jurors and make a little speech
before revealing the work beneath. Something short and tasteful, he felt.
A bit of context, a bit of - he caught his wife's bulging eyes in her
purple face and knew that when Clara became abstract it was no time for
He quickly turned back to the painting and whipped the brown paper off,
revealing Fair Day.
Clara's jaw dropped. Her head jerked down as though suddenly insupportable.
Her eyes widened and her breathing stopped. It was as though she'd died,
for an instant. So this was Fair Day. It took her breath away. And clearly
the other jurors felt the same way. There were varying degrees of disbelief
on the semi-circle of faces. Even the chairperson, Elise Jacob, was silent.
She actually looked like she was having a stroke.
Clara hated judging other people's work, and this wasthe worst so far.
She'd kicked herself all the way there for convincing Jane to enter her
first work ever for public viewing in an exhibition she herself was judging.
Was it ego? Was it mere stupidity?
'This work is called Fair Day,' read Elise from her notes. 'It's being
submitted by Jane Neal of Three Pines, a longtime supporter of Arts Williamsburg,
but her first submission.' Elise looked around. 'Comments?'
'It's wonderful,' Clara lied. The others looked at her in astonishment.
Facing them on the easel was an unframed canvas and the subject was obvious.
The horses looked like horses, the cows were cows, and the people were
all recognisable, not only as people but as specific people from the village.
But they were all stick figures. Or at least perhaps one evolutionary
notch up from stick figures. In a war between a stick figure army and
these people in Fair Day, the Fair Day people would win, only because
they had a little more muscle. And fingers. But it was clear that these
people lived in only two dimensions. Clara, in trying to grasp what she
was looking at, and trying not to make the obvious comparisons, felt that
it was a little like a cave drawing put on canvas. If Neanderthals had
county fairs, this was what they'd have looked like.
'Mon Dieu. My four-year-old can do better than that,' said Henri Lariviere,
making the obvious comparison. Henri had been a laborer in a quarry before
discovering that the stone spoke to him. And he listened. There was no
going back after that, of course, though his family longed for the day
when he made at least the minimum wage instead of huge stone sculptures.
His face now, as ever, was broad and rough and inscrutable, but his hands
spoke for him. They were turned up in a simple and eloquent gesture of
appeal, of surrender. He was struggling to find the appropriate words,
knowing that Jane was a friend of many of the jurors. 'It's awful.' He'd
clearly given up the struggle and revertedto the truth. Either that or
his description was actually kind compared to what he really thought.
In bold, bright colors Jane's work showed the parade just before the closing
of the fair. Pigs were distinguishable from goats only because they were
bright red. The children looked like little adults. In fact, thought Clara
leaning tentatively forward as though the canvas might deal her another
blow, those aren't children. They're small adults. She recognised Olivier
and Gabri leading the blue rabbits. In the stands beyond the parade sat
the crowd, many of them in profile, looking at each other, or looking
away from each other. Some, not many, looked straight at Clara. All the
cheeks had perfect round red circles, denoting, Clara supposed, a healthy
glow. It was awful.
'Well, that's easy enough at least,' said Irenée Calfat. 'That's
Clara could feel her extremities grow cold and numb.
Irenée Calfat was a potter. She took hunks of clay and turned them
into exquisite works. She'd pioneered a new way to glaze her works and
was now sought out by potters worldwide. Of course, after they'd made
the pilgrimage to Irenée Calfat's studio in St Rémy and
spent five minutes with the Goddess of Mud, they knew they'd made a mistake.
She was one of the most self absorbed and petty people on the face of
Clara wondered how a person so devoid of normal human emotions could create
works of such beauty. While you yourself struggle, said the nasty little
voice that kept her company.
Over the rim of her mug she peeked at Peter. He had a piece of chocolate
cupcake stuck to his face. Instinctively, Clara wiped her own face, inadvertently
smearing a walnut into her hair. Even with that hunk of chocolate on his
face Peter was riveting. Classically handsome. Tall, broad-shouldered
like a lumberjack, not the delicate artist hewas. His wavy hair was gray
now, and he wore glasses all the time, and lines scored the corners of
his eyes and his clean-shaven face. In his early fifties, he looked like
a businessman on an outward bound adventure. Most mornings Clara would
wake up and watch while he slept, and want to crawl inside his skin and
wrap herself around his heart and keep him safe.
Clara's head acted as a food magnet. She was the Carmen Miranda of baked
goods. Peter, on the other hand, was always immaculate. It could be raining
mud and he would return home cleaner than when he went out. But sometimes,
some glorious times, his natural aura failed him and a piece of something
stuck to his face. Clara knew she should tell him. But didn't.
'Do you know,' said Peter and even Irenée looked at him, 'I think
Irenée snorted and shot a meaningful look at Henri who just ignored
her. Peter sought out Clara and held her gaze for a moment, a kind of
touchstone. When Peter walked into a room he always swept it until he
found Clara. And then he relaxed. The outside world saw a tall, distinguished
man with his disheveled wife, and wondered why. Some, principally Peter's
mother, even seemed to consider it a violation of nature. Clara was his
centre and all that was good and healthy and happy about him. When he
looked at her he didn't see the wild, untamable hair, the billowing frocks,
the Dollar-rama store horn-rimmed spectacles. No. He saw his safe harbor.
Although, granted, at this moment he also saw a walnut in her hair, which
was pretty much an identifying characteristic. Instinctively, he put his
hand up to brush his own hair, knocking the piece of cupcake from his
'What do you see?' Elise asked Peter.
'Honestly, I don't know. But I know we need to accept it.'
This brief answer somehow gave his opinion even more credibility.
'It's a risk,' said Elise.
'I agree,' said Clara. 'But what's the worst that can happen? That people
who see the show might think we've made a mistake? They always think that.'
Elise nodded in appreciation.
'I'll tell you what the risk is,' said Irenée, the 'you idiots'
implied as she plowed on. 'This is a community group and we barely make
ends meet. Our only value is our credibility. Once it's believed we accept
works based not on their value as art but because we like the artist,
as a clique of friends, we're ruined. That's the risk. No one will take
us seriously. Artists won't want to show here for fear of being tainted.
The public won't come because they know all they'll see is crap like -
' here words failed her and she merely pointed at the canvas.
Then Clara saw it. Just a flash, something niggling on the outer reaches
of her consciousness. For the briefest moment Fair Day shimmered. The
pieces came together, then the moment passed. Clara realised she'd stopped
breathing again, but she also realised that she was looking at a work
of great art. Like Peter, she didn't know why or how, but in that instant
that world which had seemed upside down righted. She knew Fair Day was
an extraordinary work.
'I think it's more than wonderful, I think it's brilliant,' she said.
'Oh, please. Can't you see she's just saying that to support her husband?'
'Irenée, we've heard your opinion. Go on, Clara,' said Elise. Henri
leaned forward, his chair groaning.
Clara got up and walked slowly to the work on the easel. It touched her
deep down in a place of such sadness and loss it was all she could do
not to weep. How could thisbe? she asked herself. The images were so childish,
so simple. Silly almost, with dancing geese and smiling people. But there
was something else. Something just beyond her grasp.
'I'm sorry. This is embarrassing,' she smiled, feeling her cheeks burning,
'but I actually can't explain it.'
'Why don't we set Fair Day aside and look at the rest of the works. We'll
come back to it at the end.'
The rest of the afternoon went fairly smoothly. The sun was getting low,
making the room even colder by the time they looked at Fair Day again.
Everyone was wiped out and just wanted this to be over. Peter flipped
on the overhead spotlights and lifted Jane's work on to the easel.
'D'accord. Has anyone changed their mind about Fair Day?' Elise asked.
'I make it two in favor of accepting and two against.'
Elise stared quietly at Fair Day. She knew Jane Neal in passing and liked
what she saw. She'd always struck Elise as a sensible, kind and intelligent
woman. A person you'd want to spend time with. How was it this woman had
created this slapdash, childish work? But. And a new thought entered her
head. Not, actually, an original thought or even new to Elise, but a new
one for this day.
'Fair Day is accepted. It'll be shown with the other works of art.'
Clara leapt up with delight, toppling her chair.
'Oh, come on,' said Irenée.
'Exactly! Well done. You've both proven my point.' Elise smiled.
'For whatever reason, Fair Day challenges us. It moves us. To anger,'
here Elise acknowledged Irenée, 'to confusion,' a brief but meaningful
look at Henri who nodded his grizzled head slightly, 'to ...' a glance
at Peter and Clara.
'Joy,' said Peter at the very moment Clara said, 'Sorrow.' They looked
at each other and laughed.
'Now, I look at it and feel, like Henri, simply confused. The truth is
I don't know whether Fair Day is a brilliant example of naive art, or
the pathetic scrawling of a superbly untalented, and delusional, old woman.
That's the tension. And that's why it must be part of the show. I can
guarantee you it's the one work people will be talking about in the cafés
after the vernissage.'
'Hideous,' said Ruth Zardo later that evening, leaning on her cane and
swigging Scotch. Peter and Clara's friends were gathered in their living
room, around the murmuring fireplace for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner.
It was the lull before the onslaught. Family and friends, invited or not,
would arrive the next day and manage to stay through the Thanksgiving
long weekend. The woods would be full of hikers and hunters, an unfortunate
combination. The annual touch football game would be held on the village
green on Saturday morning, followed by the harvest market in the afternoon,
a last ditch effort to download tomatoes and zucchini. That evening the
bonfire would be lit filling Three Pines with the delicious scent of burning
leaves and wood, and the suspicious undercurrent of gazpacho.
Three Pines wasn't on any tourist map, being too far off any main or even
secondary road. Like Narnia, it was generally found unexpectedly and with
a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding
in this valley all along. Anyone fortunate enough to find it once usually
found their way back. And Thanksgiving, in early October, was the perfect
time. The weather was usually crisp and clear, the summer scents of old
garden roses and phlox were replaced by musky autumn leaves, woodsmoke
and roast turkey.
Olivier and Gabri were recounting that morning's events. Their description
was so vivid everyone in the snug living room could see the three masked
boys picking up handfuls of duck manure from the edge of the village green:
the boys lifted their hands, the manure sliding between their fingers,
and then hurled the stuff at the old brick building. Soon the blue and
white Campari awnings were dripping. Manure was sliding off the walls.
The 'Bistro' sign was splattered. In moments, the pristine face of the
café in the heart of Three Pines was filthy, and not just with
duck poop. The village had become soiled by the words that filled the
startled air: 'Fags! Queers! Dégueulasse!' the boys screamed.
As Jane listened to Olivier and Gabri, she recalled how she had emerged
from her tiny stone cottage across the green and, hurrying over, had seen
Olivier and Gabri come out of the Bistro. The boys had roared their delight
and aimed at the two men, striking them with the manure.
Jane had picked up her pace, wishing her stout legs longer. Then she'd
seen Olivier do the most extraordinary thing. As the boys screamed and
hauled off handfuls of mulch, Olivier had slowly, deliberately, gently
taken Gabri's hand and held it before gracefully lifting it to his lips.
The boys had watched, momentarily stunned, as Olivier had kissed Gabri's
manure-stained hand with his manure-stained lips. The boys had seemed
petrified by this act of love and defiance. But just for a moment. Their
hatred triumphed and soon their attack had re-doubled.
'Stop that!' Jane had called firmly.
Their arms had halted in mid-swing, instinctively reacting to a voice
of authority. Turning as one they'd seen little Jane Neal, in her floral
dress and yellow cardigan, bearing down on them. One of the boys, wearing
an orange mask, had lifted his arm to toss at her.
'Don't you dare, young man.'
He hesitated just long enough for Jane to look them all in the eyes.
'Philippe Croft, Gus Hennessey, Claude LaPierre,' she'd said, slowly and
distinctly. That had done it. The boys dropped their handfuls and ran,
shooting past Jane and tripping up the hill, the one in the orange mask
laughing. It was a sound so foul it even eclipsed the manure. One boy
turned and looked back as the others careered into him and shoved him
back up du Moulin.
It had happened only that morning. It already seemed like a dream.
'It was hideous,' said Gabri, agreeing with Ruth as he dropped into one
of the old chairs, its faded fabric warmed by the fire. 'Of course they
were right; I am gay.'
'And,' said Olivier, lounging on the arm of Gabri's chair, 'quite queer.'
'I have become one of the stately homos of Quebec,' Gabri paraphrased
Quentin Crisp. 'My views are breathtaking.'
Olivier laughed and Ruth threw another log on the fire.
'You did look very stately this morning,' said Ben Hadley, Peter's best
'Don't you mean estately?'
'More like the back forty, it's true.'
In the kitchen, Clara was greeting Myrna Landers.
'The table looks wonderful,' said Myrna, peeling off her coat and revealing
a bright purple kaftan. Clara wondered how she squeezed through doorways.
Myrna then dragged in her contribution to the evening, a flower arrangement.
'Where would you like it, child?'
Clara gawked. Like Myrna herself, her bouquets were huge, effusive and
unexpected. This one contained oak and maple branches, bulrushes from
the Rivière Bella Bella which ran behind Myrna's bookshop, apple
branches with a couple of McIntoshes still on them, and great armfuls
'Here, in the middle of the arrangement.'
'Hummuh, and look in there,' Myrna pointed into the tangle.
'The Collected Works of W. H. Auden,' Clara read. 'You're kidding.'
'It's for the boys.'
'What else is in there?' Clara scanned the immense arrangement.
'Denzel Washington. But don't tell Gabri.'
In the living room, Jane continued the story: ' ... then Gabri said to
me, "I have your mulch. This is just the way Vita Sackville West
always wore it."'
Olivier whispered in Gabri's ear, 'You are queer.'
'Aren't you glad one of us is?' a well-worn and comfortable jest.
'How are you?' Myrna came in from the kitchen, followed by Clara, and
hugged Gabri and Olivier while Peter poured her Scotch.
'I think we're all right,' Olivier kissed Myrna on both cheeks. 'It's
probably surprising this didn't happen sooner. We've been here for what?
Twelve years?' Gabri nodded, his mouth full of Camembert. 'And this is
the first time we've been bashed. I was gay bashed in Montreal when I
was a kid, by a group of grown men. That was terrifying.' They'd grown
silent, and there was just the crackling and muttering of the fire in
the background as Olivier spoke.
'They hit me with sticks. It's funny, but when I think back that's the
most painful part. Not the scrapes and bruises, but before they hit me
they kind of poked, you know?' Hejabbed with one arm to mimic their movements.
'It was as though I wasn't human.'
'That's the necessary first step,' said Myrna. 'They dehumanise their
victim. You've put it well.'
She spoke from experience. Before coming to Three Pines she'd been a psychologist
in Montreal. And, being black, she knew that singular expression when
people saw her as furniture.
Ruth turned to Olivier, changing the subject. 'I was in the basement and
came across a few things I thought you could sell for me.' Ruth's basement
was her bank.
'There's some cranberry glass--'
'Oh, wonderful.' Olivier adored colored glass. 'Hand blown?'
'Do you take me for an idiot? Of course they're hand blown.'
'Are you sure you don't want them?' he always asked this of his friends.
'Stop asking me that. Do you think I'd mention them if there was a doubt?'
'OK, tell me more,' said Olivier. The stuff Ruth hauled up from her basement
was incredible. It was as though she had a porthole to the past. Some
of it was junk, like the old broken-down coffee makers and burned-out
toasters. But most made him tremble with pleasure. The greedy antique
dealer in him, which composed a larger part of his make-up than he'd ever
admit, was thrilled to have exclusive access to Ruth's treasures. He'd
sometimes daydream about that basement.
If he was excited by Ruth's possessions, he was positively beside himself
with lust after Jane's home. He'd kill to see beyond her kitchen door.
Her kitchen alone was worth tensof thousands of dollars in antiques. When
he'd first come to Three Pines, at the Drama Queen's insistence, he was
reduced almost to incoherence when he saw the linoleum on Jane's mudroom
floor. If the mudroom was a museum and the kitchen a shrine, what in the
world lay beyond? Olivier shook off the thought, knowing he would probably
be disappointed. IKEA. And shag carpet. He'd long since stopped thinking
it strange that Jane had never invited anyone through the swinging door
into her living room and beyond.
'About the mulch, Jane,' Gabri was saying, his bulk bending over one of
Peter's jigsaw puzzles, 'I can get it to you tomorrow. Do you need help
cutting back your garden?'
'No, almost done. But this might be the last year. It's getting beyond
me.' Gabri was relieved he didn't have to help. Doing his own garden was
'I have a whole lot of hollyhock babies,' said Jane, fitting in a piece
of the sky. 'How did those single yellows do for you? I didn't notice
'I put them in last fall, but they never called me mother. Can I have
some more? I'll trade you for some monarda.'
'God, don't do that.' Monarda was the zucchini of the flower world. It,
too, figured prominently in the harvest market and, subsequently, the
Thanksgiving bonfire, which would give off a hint of sweet bergamot so
that it smelled as though every cottage in Three Pines was brewing Earl
'Did we tell you what happened this afternoon after you'd all left?' Gabri
said in his stage voice, so that the words fell neatly into every ear
in the room. 'We were just getting the peas ready for tonight' - Clara
rolled her eyes and mumbled to Jane, 'Probably lost the can opener.' -
'when the doorbell rang and there were Matthew Croft and Philippe.'
'No! What happened?'
'Philippe mumbled, "I'm sorry about this morning."'
'What did you say?' Myrna asked.
'Prove it,' said Olivier.
'You didn't,' hooted Clara, amused and impressed.
'I most certainly did. There was a lack of sincerity about the apology.
He was sorry he got caught and sorry there were consequences. But I didn't
believe he was sorry about what he did.'
'Conscience and cowardice,' said Clara.
'What do you mean?' asked Ben.
'Oscar Wilde said that conscience and cowardice are the same thing. What
stops us from doing horrible things isn't our conscience but the fear
of getting caught.'
'I wonder if that's true,' said Jane.
'Would you?' Myrna asked Clara.
'Do terrible things if I could get away with it?'
'Cheat on Peter,' suggested Olivier. 'Steal from the bank. Or better still,
steal another artist's work?'
'Ah, kids stuff,' snapped Ruth. 'Now, take murder, for instance. Would
you mow someone down with your car? Or poison them, maybe, or throw them
into the Bella Bella during spring run off? Or,' she looked around, warm
firelight reflecting off slightly concerned faces, 'or we could set a
fire and then not save them.'
'What do you mean, "we", white woman?' said Myrna. Myrna brought
the conversation back from the edge.
'The truth? Sure. But not murder.' Clara looked over at Ruth who simply
gave her a conspiratorial wink.
'Imagine a world where you could do anything. Anything. And get away with
it,' said Myrna, warming to the topic again. 'What power. Who here wouldn't
'Jane wouldn't,' said Ruth with certainty. 'But the rest of you?' she
'And you?' Olivier asked Ruth, more than a little annoyed to be lumped
in where he secretly knew he belonged.
'Me? But you know me well enough by now, Olivier. I'dbe the worst. I'd
cheat, and steal, and make all your lives hell.'
'Worse than now?' asked Olivier, still peeved.
'Now you're on the list,' said Ruth. And Olivier remembered that the closest
thing they had to a police force was the volunteer fire brigade, of which
he was a member but of which Ruth was the chief. When Ruth Zardo ordered
you into a conflagration, you went. She was scarier than a burning building.
'Gabri, what about you?' Clara asked.
'There've been times I've been mad enough to kill, and may have, had I
known I would get away with it.'
'What made you that angry?' Clara was astonished.
'Betrayal, always and only betrayal.'
'What did you do about it?' asked Myrna.
'Therapy. That was where I met this guy.' Gabri reached out and patted
Olivier's hand. 'I think we both went to that therapist for about a year
longer than we had to just to see each other in the waiting room.'
'Is that sick?' said Olivier, smoothing a lock of his immaculate, thinning
blond hair off his face. It was like silk, and kept falling into his eyes,
no matter what products he used.
'Mock me if you will, but everything happens for a reason,' Gabri said.
'No betrayal, no rage. No rage, no therapy. No therapy, no Olivier. No
'Enough.' Olivier held up his hands in surrender.
'I've always liked Matthew Croft,' said Jane.
'Did you teach him?' asked Clara.
'Long time ago. He was in the second to last class at the old schoolhouse
here, before it closed.'
'I still think that was a shame they closed it,' said Ben.
'For God's sake, Ben, the school closed twenty years ago. Move on.' Only
Ruth would say this.
When she first came to Three Pines, Myrna had wondered whether Ruth had
had a stroke. Sometimes, Myrna knewfrom her practice, stroke victims had
very little impulse control. When she asked about it, Clara said if Ruth
had had a stroke it was in the womb. As far as she knew, Ruth had always
been like this.
'Then why does everyone like her?' Myrna had asked.
Clara had laughed and shrugged, 'You know there are days I ask myself
the same thing. What a piece of work that woman can be. But she's worth
the effort, I think.'
'Anyway,' Gabri huffed now, having temporarily lost the spotlight. 'Philippe
agreed to work for fifteen hours, volunteer, around the Bistro.'
'Bet he wasn't happy about that,' said Peter, getting to his feet.
'You got that right,' said Olivier with a grin.
'I want to propose a toast,' said Gabri. 'To our friends, who stood by
us today. To our friends who spent all morning cleaning the Bistro.' It
was a phenomenon Myrna had noticed before, some people's ability to turn
a terrible event into a triumph. She'd thought about it that morning,
manure under her fingernails, pausing for a moment to look at the people,
young and old, pitching in. And she was one of them. And she blessed,
again, the day she'd decided to quit the city and come here and sell books
to these people. She was finally home. Then another image came back to
her, one that had gotten lost in the activity of the morning. Of Ruth
leaning on her cane, turning away from the others, so that only Myrna
could see the wince of pain as the elderly woman lowered herself to her
knees, and silently scrubbed. All morning.
'Dinner's ready,' Peter called.
'Formidable. Just like dear Mama. Le Sieur?' Jane asked a few minutes
later, bringing a forkful of mushy peas and gravy to her mouth.
'Bien sûr. From Monsieur Beliveau.' Olivier nodded.
'Oh, for God's sake,' Clara called down the groaning pinetable. 'They're
canned peas! From the general store. You call yourself a chef!'
'Le Sieur is the gold standard for canned peas. Keep this up, missy, and
you'll get the no-name brand next year. No gratitude,' Olivier stage-whispered
to Jane, 'and on Thanksgiving, too. Shameful.'
They ate by candlelight, the candles of all shapes and sizes flickering
around the kitchen. Their plates were piled high with turkey and chestnut
stuffing, candied yams and potatoes, peas and gravy. They'd all brought
something to eat, except Ben, who didn't cook. But he'd brought bottles
of wine, which was even better. It was a regular get-together, and pot-luck
was the only way Peter and Clara could afford to hold a dinner party.
Olivier leaned over to Myrna, 'Another great flower arrangement.'
'Thank you. Actually, there's something hidden in there for you two.'
'Really!' Gabri was on his feet in an instant. His long legs propelled
his bulk across the kitchen to the arrangement. Unlike Olivier, who was
self-contained and even fastidious, like a cat, Gabri was more like a
St Bernard, though mostly without the slobber. He carefully examined the
complex forest and then shrieked. 'Just what I've always wanted.' He pulled
out the kielbassa.
'Not that. That's for Clara.' Everyone looked at Clara with alarm, especially
Peter. Olivier looked relieved. Gabri reached in again and gingerly extracted
the thick book.
'The Collected Works of W. H. Auden.' Gabri tried to keep the disappointment
out of his voice. But not too hard. 'I don't know him.'
'Oh, Gabri, you're in for a treat,' said Jane.
'All right, I can't stand it any more,' Ruth said suddenly, leaning across
the table to Jane. 'Did Arts Williamsburg accept your work?'
It was as though the word triggered springs in their chairs. Everyone
was catapulted to their feet, shooting toward Jane who stood and accepted
their hugs with enthusiasm. She seemed to glow brighter than any of the
candles in the room. Standing back for an instant and watching the scene,
Clara felt her heart contract and her spirit lighten and felt fortunate
indeed to be part of this moment.
'Great artists put a lot of themselves into their work,' said Clara when
the chairs had been regained.
'What's Fair Day's special meaning?' Ben asked.
'Now, that would be cheating. You have to figure it out. It's there.'
Jane turned to Ben, smiling. 'You'll figure it out, I'm sure.'
'Why's it called Fair Day?' he asked.
'It was painted at the county fair, the closing parade.' Jane gave Ben
a meaningful look. His mother, her friend, Timmer, had died that afternoon.
Was it only a month ago? The whole village had been at the parade, except
Timmer, dying of cancer alone in bed, while her son Ben was away in Ottawa
at an antiques auction. Clara and Peter had been the ones to break the
news to him. Clara would never forget the look on his face when Peter
told him his mother was dead. Not sadness, not even pain, yet. But utter
disbelief. He wasn't the only one.
'Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at
our own table,' Jane said almost under her breath. 'Auden,' she explained,
nodding to the book in Gabri's hand and flashing a smile that broke the
unexpected, and unexplained, tension.
'I might just sneak down and take a look at Fair Day before the show,'
Jane took a deep breath. 'I'd like to invite you all over for drinks after
the opening of the exhibition. In the living room.' Had she said 'In the
nude' they wouldn't have been more amazed. 'I have a bit of a surprise
'No kidding,' said Ruth.
Stomachs full of turkey and pumpkin pie, port and espresso, the tired
guests walked home, their flashlights bobbing like huge fireflies. Jane
kissed Peter and Clara goodnight. It had been a comfortable, unremarkable
early Thanksgiving with friends. Clara watched Jane make her way along
the winding path through the woods that joined their two homes. Long after
Jane had disappeared from view her flashlight could be seen, a bright
white light, like Diogenes. Only when Clara heard the eager barking of
Jane's dog Lucy did she gently close her door. Jane was home. Safe.
STILL LIFE. Copyright © 2005 by Louise Penny. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used
or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except
in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York,