Reviews and bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.
If I am lost, you will find me in medieval England.
You can also find me - and my books - on my blog.
'None of the books in this series have wowed me enough to rate them 5 stars.'
That is what I said after finishing The Cruelest Month, the third book in the Armand Gamache mystery series. I have been quickly put in my place.
This installment takes place in the summer, which the author manages to make sound less attractive than Canadian winter. Not only has the season changed, but so has the setting. The Gamaches treat themselves to a week at a fancy lodge for their anniversary, but when a couple of Three Pines friends show up, you know someone is going to be murdered.
I'm not a mystery buff, but this series has pulled me in. It's the characters and clever descriptions that I am growing addicted to. This book is more of a character study than a murder investigation. Through the Marrows, we see family dysfunction at its best - how pain from decades ago can motivate the actions of an adult, how secrets can cripple relationships, how different people express love. Each of these people seems insane, until you get a peek at their point of view.
Then there is dear Beauvoir, who finds mud in spring, bugs in summer, and snow in winter. Though there's always something getting on his nerves and ruining his fancy shoes, Jean Guy brightens my day with his cynical observations. Like all of Penny's characters, he is multifaceted, complex, and real. He is arrogant, yet desperate for Gamache's approval. Intelligent, but gets stuck on certain facts or suspects. He is annoyed by most of the people around him, but he would do anything to protect them. I smile as soon as I see his name.
And Armand . . . . I mean, everybody loves Armand. Well, everyone except Mrs. Finney. He is like a knight without the shining armor, but he does have a gun. However, it never leaves its holster. Not because Gamache is a coward, but because he prefers to solve problems with intellect and fix people rather than get rid of them. We learn more about Armand's past in this book, tear-jerking detail that has the added bonus of historic interest.
Peter? Yeah, I still don't like him.
Anyway, there is also a murder! I'm no expert on rating murder plots, but this one kept me guessing. I had no idea who did it or how. Even in the climactic scene where they were revealed - "The murderer said to Gamache...." type of reveal. I was still sitting here thinking, who the hell is it?!
So, long story short, I loved it. I adore the characters, and am even starting to think that Canada doesn't sound all that bad. The historic tidbits, lines of poetry, and brilliant insight into the human psyche make this my favorite of the series so far.