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Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: 'Bury Your Dead'

By Louise Penny
Crime fiction
September 2010
Minotaur Books
ISBN: 978-0-312-37704-5

Louise Penny began her Three Pines/Inspector Gamache series in the charming, Brigadoon-like Quebec village of Three Pines, where artists and creativity thrive and evil lurks, as traditional mysteries. The cast of suspects was limited in Miss Marple fashion. Quirkiness, such as celebrated poet and unrelenting crank Ruth Zardo, were highly regarded.

But as the series has continued, its creator has made each novel subtly more complex. Although food, art and quirkiness are still esteemed in Louise Penny's novels, there is far more going on in them than eccentricity and fair-play whodunits. The focus of the novels has become the human journey of forgiveness, despite knowing all too well the frailties of the other person involved.

This focus has been the foundation of the last two novels. The plot of The Brutal Telling, Penny's incredible last novel, changed everything. How life goes on is addressed in Bury Your Dead as Gamache carries on after both that case and a traumatic incident in which lives were lost.

In Bury Your Dead, Gamache is healing from external and internal injuries. At first, the reader only knows that something went horribly wrong, that police officers died and that Gamache blames himself. What happened is revealed gradually in flashbacks that are written and placed the way that flashbacks should be used. Since Gamache blames himself, he cannot forgive himself. And that leads him to question what he did in the last book.

Woven into the dual storylines of questioning himself in both incidents, Gamache and his deputy Beauvoir must face their assumptions about individuals. One will do some forgiving, while the other will need to be forgiven. And both are going to have to deal with people they may not be able to forgive.

The people of Three Pines continue to play a pivotal role as well. And some of them who may have some work to do in the forgiving department will, it is hoped, begin that process in the next Louise Penny novel.

Because Penny writes with such clarity and deceptive simplicity that conveys complex and subtle humanity, Bury Your Dead does stand on its own. However, the richness of what she is doing will be savored all the more if one reads the entire series. This is a writer to watch grow and to enjoy every step of the journey her characters take.

© 2010 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

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