(the author revealed at the end of this disappointing book that while she was writing it, her husband suffering from dementia, was failing, and eventually died. definitely a time to be compassionate. still, I stand by my review below)
very disappointed. love her books but this one had a lot of white spaces, blank pages, and repetitions. more a novella or even a short story. I noticed lots of phrases, sentences and ideas from her former books. half way thru the book, I found I could scan many paragraphs which were fillers. I love her books but this didn't feel like the quality i'm used to from her. Had a hard time finishing but the last chapter was interesting.
I loved this story, The cobrador was a metaphor for the conscience of all the characters. The clever use of the tiny border town as a corridor for crime is a current issue with our American neighbours. I did like the braiding of the past and present, the 'hot scenes' were the present and the events taking place in the cold were reflections of what had gone on in the past. This book is up to Penny's usual excellent standards in crime fiction.
You can't beat a Louise Penny novel on a cold, winter's night in Minnesota. She's in my top tier of writers along with CJ Box, Carl Hiaasen, Daniel Silva, David House right, and the late, great Vince Flynn who poured me a few Dewars in St Paul years ago. R.I.P Vince....
Not one of her best. Confusing at times with all the back and forth stuff. I like her books that go into more 'food' descriptions and involve the village locals. This one consisted mainly of a group of non-villagers.
I became acquainted with the genius of Louise Penny when I read in 2012 her debut novel, Still Life, published in 2005. Back then, I wrote for myself this response to her writing: Remarkable in that the spirit outranks the letter. Author stands at the portal to organic writing.
The ensuing years have brought forth eleven more novels penned by Penny, and now, with the creation of Glass Houses, her thirteenth novel, she stands in the vestibule of organic writing, which evolves without intellectual prodding. There's plenty of this prodding in the production of this murder mystery, but the organic nature lifts from the pages near the middle of the book. There rapture awaits the reader who is keen in engaging the spirit of the story. The following four sentences from page 184 of the hardcover offer a taste of this rapture:
"[Chief Superintendent] Armand Gamache walked through the late afternoon darkness. The lights from the cottages were made soft by the mist that still hung over the village. Three Pines felt slightly out of focus. Not quite of this world."
Three Pines is on the map if you've been there; otherwise, it does not exist.
Louise Penny builds her mystery with the help of glass houses, a baseball bat, the novel Lord of the Flies, the phrase "burn our ships," Mahatma Gandhi's higher court of the conscience, lesbianism, an old poet demented with insight, and the Spanish cobrador, who collects debts. Penny, in pushing to the beyond, infuses "cobrador" with a higher meaning: "conscience."
How the cobrador as conscience plays out in the story is done well. Penny's cobrador wears a black costume and mask. Three Pines, located near Montreal and the border with the United States, is the center of the story, and it is here that the cobrador appears and stands mute on the village green. This sinister presence causes a stir in the village. A lot of questions are raised, with the most basic of them—what is it doing here?—leading into the intrigue.
Chief Superintendent Gamache was the first to confront the cobrador. The entity did not move, it did not speak. If the narrator would have given Gamache the opportunity to assess the height of the cobrador and detect the scent, if any, of the person hidden by black, the intrigue would have been put at risk. Sherlock Holmes with the help of his narrator would have taken this opportunity and damn the intrigue, but Holmes could have no place in this mystery because he favors the letter in solving a crime whereas Gamache favors the spirit.
Louise Penny creates in Glass Houses an enjoyable read by creating symbols, even of the murder victim and Three Pines itself, and by keeping the reader close to Armand Gamache, whose conscience is on trial.
The murder mystery intersects later with a search for the leader of a drug cartel. Is that culprit the murderer?
By the end of the story, the reader may be thinking that Louise Penny, the conscience for Glass Houses, is her own hero, Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache, the conscience for a world hidden from the world.
I'm not a fan. Nothing happened in the first 150 pages except to establish, ad nauseam, the existence of a cobrador. Determined to finish despite my lack of enthusium I plodded to the end. I wanted more engagement to the characters, not blind devotion to the author.
Disappointing, using a "scary thing" as the crux of the story. Slow moving and repetitive with how Gamache "felt." The story was not captivating in any way unlike her first books.
One of the things I enjoy so much about a Louise Penny book is the way she incorporates her research into her books. An example is Beautiful Mysteries, which is about silent monks who make Gregorian chants a central part of their faith and worship. I became aware of the depth of her immersion into the research when she noted that the monks’ silence awakened them to an awareness of minuscule expressions and the thoughts they conveyed. That is not something she learned from Wikipedia. (This is as opposed to The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about a girl from a hill tribe in China, Akha. When I looked up Akha, I found an entry that included all the beliefs and practices that were related in the book. I got no insights that would have come from someone having actual experienced living those beliefs and practices.)
Anyway, the thing that was so interesting in Glass Houses was the Cobrador. It is derived from the Spanish practice involving El Cobrador del Frac — a debt collector in a top hat who follows the debtor around silently, with the aim of shaming him/her into paying the debt. Penny created something different and more sinister by claiming it to be an ancient practice, and by making its purpose be to collect on moral and ethical debts as well as financial. I was disappointed to learn that she made that part up, and like the book a little less when I learned it was not true. I know; that’s not really fair.
I really enjoy her books. While reading the 1st one, I thought it was more of a young readers book. Found myself by going back for another. Then another. Fell in love with Armand, Henri, the city of Quebec, and the Eastern townships all over again. Her books may not have you biting you nails while perched on the edge of your seat, but they are very enjoyable reads. Keep writing, my dear Ms Penny. And thank you!
This is a good addition to the series. Certainly recommended to series readers but probably not to "outsiders". For those who are tired of the citizens of Three Pines it's probably time to stop reading but to those of us who fantasize about living there it's wonderful. This is a drugs story as well as a murder mystery. I thought that aspect was very timely since the opioid epidemic is front and center of the news almost daily.
A new book by Louise Penny is always a treat. This is not the best or the worst of them. It has all the usual characters and themes, but the vaguely threatening thing seemed a bit forced, and the plotline with Gamache's police business I didn't particularly enjoy. You could read this without previous books : you probably don't appreciate the village characters unless you've read a couple of previous books because their token appearances don't go into depth this time, and there's mild spoilers for previous books since those characters are (or aren't) still alive. Still recommend the book!
This is Hillary Clinton's favourite author, and the reason that
the Clintons holidayed in Quebec recently.
I liked the book and I've read all of the series. I read these because they are pure escape for me. However, this time I thought the book would never come to an end. For fun I checked a couple of her books 312 and 320 pages - this book clocks in at 400. Reading the book I wondered if she was now copying Scandinavian mysteries because the ones I've read are quite wordy. This book could have done with a little more editing. I also wasn't wild about the drug story in general. Yes, drugs are everywhere but when I read the Gamache series I just want to enjoy the company of everyone at the Bistro with a little murder thrown in.
Another terrific Gamache novel. I enjoyed the split time line which wove in and out of the testimony Gamache gives in the summer about events the previous November. Without giving too much away, I have to say I don't always love the way Penny describes people on drugs, as though all drugs have the same effect and all addicts turn into monsters. Or the idea that a war on drugs can ever truly be "won." Other than these minor points this is another great story that uses repeated imagery and language to pull together the threads that are more like fuses, drawn into one explosive climax. If you already like this series this installment will not disappoint.
Louise Penny just keeps getting better and better. Her writing has become much tighter and certainly more suspenseful. Like previous comments, I usually shy away from books using flashbacks, but, for the most part, Penny does this well. The dialogue still needs a little cleaning up and Ruth, well, you can't help but love her.
Louise Penney just does not disappoint! Can't wait for the next one to come
One of my least favorite writing styles involves flashbacks or alternative chapters with different points of view. In this novel, these techniques meld into the story line. Often I felt a little left out of the details about what had happened. However, these are slowly revealed, but always, it seemed, amidst a cover of obscurity, something Penny is good at. Readers may guess who is to blame, after all the list of characters is few, but only Penny could supply their motives. The plot revolves around drugs - suppliers, sellers, victims - and the on going efforts of the police to stop this growing illicit trade. As the novel comes to the end, the tension and action increase. It is then that the book becomes a page turner. Best not to leave too much down time between readings as some of the important details will escape from memory.
What I find annoying about Penny's novels are her frequent use of words that don't form sentences and short words given a paragraph format - a seemingly popular writing style adopted by several American authors of thriller novels. Any paragraph with Ruth's name in it I just skim over quickly as it is "fill material".
A tiny bit repetitive and could do without the oui, non, merci and désolé peppered about, but perhaps they added color. It helps to start a list of characters for referencing. All in all, a great read by a fine mystery writer, written at a very difficult time for her personally. Worth your reading time!
In this tightly plotted mystery, the 13th Gamache novel, Louise Penny, has created a story within a story, and it’s not until the violent end that the reader learns why the murder trial testimony is played out the way it is. Sure, there are hints through the book, but Penny crafts such a well-planned book, that few readers will understand the situation before Penny explains it.
I love this series and this is one of the best. Louise Penny never disappoints.
Not even close to the best book in the series. I'm tired of hearing about the Gamache's animal, Ruth's duck and Clara's hair. Much too much filler in this novel. The plot had the usual twists and turns of a Penny novel. Too much foul language when not necessary. Not sure I'll read another of her books.
This is one of the best in the series. I would echo what others have said, this is not the title to begin with, if you are new to the series. It really is best to begin with the first in the series. I’m sure the author and her editor would say that you don’t *have to* read the books in order, but it certainly is easier if you do.