Tuesday, January 07, 2020

A Better Man - Louise Penny


A Better Man is the fifteenth book in Louise Penny’s popular Inspector Gamache series, and it leaves me wondering what long-term fans of the series are going to think about it. The series has been moving toward a darker tone for a while now, but it reaches a whole new level of darkness with this latest offering.

Armand Gamache is not in a good place in his life right now, and hasn’t been for a long time. But Gamache has always been a survivor, and despite the efforts of his superiors in the Sûreté du Québec he is not going to be run off now. Gamache will leave the police department only when he is good and ready to do so, thank you, and he surprises everyone by accepting the demotion (back to head of homicide) that will allow him to get back to work even though he will have to share the job with the man who used to report directly to him, his own son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

Gamache’s return is immediately complicated by two factors: the quickly rising spring floodwaters that threaten life and property throughout the region, and the policewoman in his unit who asks that the department look into the disappearance of a young woman she knows. As the flood crisis intensifies, Gamache knows that his first priority should be in preparing for the dangerous waters that threaten to overwhelm the city and its outskirts, but he, too, is the father of a young woman – and he knows exactly how helpless the missing woman’s father must be feeling as the entire police department begins to focus on the flood rather than on finding his lost daughter.  When Gamache learns that Vivienne Godin, the missing woman, is pregnant, he decides that nothing is more important than finding her.

Louise Penny
The search, as it turns out, occurs largely in and around Three Pines, the little village that Gamache has called home for several years. This, of course, allows readers to catch up with the handful of characters who call Three Pines home and Gamache neighbor, but this is not the Three Pines that series fans have come to expect over the years. Crisis-mode Three Pines is a gloomy place because of the impending flood that could destroy it, and the villagers, who have already done all they can do to prepare, are now in standby mode. Whatever will happen, will happen, and there’s nothing more that any of them can do about it.

In the meantime, the rush is on to find the missing woman before her father takes the law into his own hands by going after the man he believes has everything to do with her disappearance – her abusive husband. And if she is still out there somewhere, will the floodwaters get to her first?

Bottom Line: A Better Man offers a gloomy, but entertaining, chapter in Armand Gamache’s life. Even Clara, the famous artist who calls Three Pines home, is suffering a self-confidence crisis because her reputation is being trashed on the internet and in big-city art galleries. Ruth is pretty much the loose cannon she has always been even though this time around her intentions are always good ones. The rest of the usual cast of characters have relatively minor roles. Truth be known, the only Three Pine resident who seems even remotely happy in A Better Man is Ruth’s duck, Rosa, who is as foul-mouthed as always. You have to love that duck. It will be interesting to see what happens with Jean-Guy Beauvoir in the next book. Will he actually leave police work and move to Paris as he seems to be doing? Will Gamache follow someday? Or will there be a new Beauvoir series to look forward to? I can’t wait to find out.



8 comments:

  1. You know a series is good when you stick it out through 15 books. :)

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  2. And I hope there are 15 more, but Gamache is getting old now and it's taking more and more creativity on Penny's part to keep him a viable crimefighter. That's why I wonder if Gamache's son-in-law may be heir to a series of his own.

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  3. Hmmm... the last book I read, How the Light Gets In, had him deciding to retire so I'm guessing that doesn't last. Off to the libray tomorrow so will pick up the next book if they have it.

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    1. I don't think Armand (I love that name; it was my maternal grandfather's first name, in fact) is going anywhere soon. I do wonder, though, if Penny is searching for an out for him and if he plans on Beauvoir taking over a new series that would be shared with Gamache.

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  4. Interesting. I don't know if I can handle a darker tone for poor Gamache! The next book I need to read in the series is THE NATURE OF THE BEAST, so I'm a little behind.

    I can definitely see Jean-Guy becoming Penny's new hero. He's a fine character, but he's no Gamache! I'll miss Gamache if he actually does retire. He's my favorite.

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    1. Gamache's darkness doesn't bother me a lot, mainly because with all he's been through now, it's easy to understand why he would feel that way. I found it, though, a bit strange to see almost every character in the book feeling that way.

      But having lived through the aftereffects of a few hurricanes in recent year, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Eastern Canada is facing massive flooding in this one, and that long, painful process can easily destroy a persons psyche.

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  5. I really need to get to the library and get some of the latest books in the series!

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    1. I've got the opposite problem. I still need to read some of the earliest ones in the series.

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