Louise Penny’s ‘Bury Your Dead’: A Chief Inspector Gamache novel
If you’ve never read anything in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, there’s something you need to know. This review is of the sixth book in the series. You will find no spoilers in this review. However, if you are new to Chief Inspector Gamache and company, start at the beginning with Still Life and work your way up to this one. This will both allow you to avoid reading spoilers in the later books and, at least as importantly in my opinion, allow you to learn the characters’ characters (did you get that?) in the same order Penny did. I believe you would have a very different relationship with some of the important characters if your first meeting involved only the full brunt of their superficial aspects rather than the nuanced introduction you receive when reading the series in order. It’s up to you; but I’m confident you will thank yourself for starting at the beginning.
The first books in this series were set primarily in and around the cozy, if somewhat murder-prone, fictional village of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada. Bury Your Dead gives the weary village residents a break. There is no fresh murder in Three Pines. Instead, Penny introduces us to some new characters during Inspector Gamache’s recuperative stay in Quebec City. Recuperative stay? Well, yes. While faithful readers were off killing time between books, Inspector Gamache was busy as ever executing his duties. In the course of things, something went horribly amiss. So, when we meet up with Gamache again in Bury Your Dead, he is in recovery mode. Unfortunately for the Inspector, someone forgot to deactivate the devil’s GPS and murder finds him even in Quebec City. Bury Your Dead dishes up one fascinating dollop of Quebec history, two murders, three four mysteries, and too many red herrings to count.
Penny is a devastatingly good mystery writer. You see this in the lyrical writing, the reticulating plot lines, and the vibrant descriptions that bring it all alive. But! The trait that really sets Penny’s books apart is their grounding in “the good.” All the traditional elements of a mystery are there, but Penny’s spin on them, woven quietly throughout each book, suggests an unflappable hopefulness about the world. Sure, you’ll meet characters who make terrible decisions with heart-rending outcomes. But this author just never takes the easy way out of a tricky situation, and doesn’t let her readers off the proverbial emotional hook either. Where others write characters you love to hate, Penny writes characters you hate to love. But you will love them, because Penny’s particular skill is in her portrayal of humanity. She presents characters as essentially good, but inherently fallible. If that sounds a bit heavy, relax. While you will meet complicated characters who are sometimes torn between emotions, who struggle to figure out how to do the right thing, and who sometimes fail, along the way they visit fascinating places, share what they learn, and eat decadently. And if that’s not enough for you, there’s also the judicious use of congenial snark.
I’m excited to be able to give away a brand new hardcover edition of this new release. Entering the giveaway is simple. You just need to enter a comment here telling me why you want to win. You can earn one additional entry for each of the following: following biblioden on twitter, like or share biblioden on facebook, tweeting about the giveaway. That’s five possible entries in all. Please leave a separate comment for each entry. Entries must be received by midnight Tuesday, October 12 and the winner will be announced Wednesday, October 13. And as you enter, please remember I need to be able to contact you if you win!
*Coming soon: Interview with Louise Penny!*