Since discovering the French Canadian village of Three Pines and Inspector Gamache this year, Louise Penny has been a go-to audiobook companion for my long commute. This latest installment is another wonderful addition to the series, proving that life after retirement is not as uneventful as the former Chief of Homicide would like.
Following the events of Long Way Home, Gamache and his wife have more-or-less settled into a quiet life in Three Pines. Trips to the Bistro, socializing with friends, reading good books – it’s an idyllic existence (but since this is Three Pines, this is likely not to last). The contentment is ended when a nine-year-old boy, known for telling tales, is murdered just after announcing to a crowd of people/suspects that there is a big gun in the woods, a big gun with a monster on it. Convinced that the boy just might have been telling the truth, Gamache assists his old team and confronts his dawning awareness that he needs to come to a decision about his own life: what comes next?As usual with Penny, The Nature of the Beast is beautifully written. The atmosphere of Three Pines is once again skillfully rendered adding to the overall strength of the story. It’s a fictional village that feels like home – even if it has a highly unusual rate of murder and mayhem. What contributes to this sense of really “knowing” this fictional place is the level of detail that Penny reveals about her characters. Gamache and all those that inhabit Three Pines are highly realized and nuanced. Slowly, through each book, more facets of characters are revealed and it’s that sense of getting to know these characters that keeps me coming back to this series.
What I also really love about Penny is her ability to bring to light aspects of Canadian history. Let’s face it, Canadian history has a bit of a reputation for being dull; however, in Penny’s hands its anything but. In The Nature of the Beast Penny’s historical tidbits relate to Canada and the arms race, and the author’s note at the end of the book reveal the actual fact that inspired this aspect of the novel. I am completely blow away by this author’s ability to weave seemingly unrelated historical fact into a coherent and rich mystery. Penny does not write cookie-cutter mysteries and The Nature of the Beast once again demonstrates the author’s skill as a writer.
Since I’ve enjoyed the majority of this series on audiobook, it’s of course necessary for me to remark on the narration of The Nature of the Beast. The narrator of all the previous books, Ralph Cosham, passed away, so with this newest book, readers (and listeners) are also introduced to a new narrator. Robert Bathurst of Downton Abbey is the new narrator of the series. Having become so attached to the previous narrator, I have to admit that I found it jarring to listen to a new narration and somewhat difficult to differentiate the various characters Bathurst was narrating for. Quite frankly the new narrator had very big shoes to fill. For many, Cosham is Gamache, so I have a feeling that audiobook fans might have a bit of difficulty warning up to the new narrator. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the narration, it’s simply an adjustment. Since the audio version is why I initially started this series, I personally found it hard to enjoy the narrator to the same extent.
For anyone that has been a fan of the Gamache series, The Nature of the Beast is another fantastic addition to the series. Penny continues to write an intelligent and compelling mystery in the fictional world of Three Pines. Readers of the series wont be disappointed and will be left wondering at the changes that are coming to this series. I for one, cannot wait to learn what Gamache’s next step will be.
For another series that is also populated by wonderful characters, try Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series. Admittedly, I wasn’t overly wowed by the first book, A Share in Death. However, this is a series that gets better and I love how attached you get to the character’s and their families.
While She’s Leaving Home doesn’t have the same kind of gentle tone that Penny’s works do, I think fans will appreciate the historical aspect that William Shaw includes. It’s 1960s London, so it’s not politically correct, but it is compelling.