Title: A Fatal Grace
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur, 2006. 314 pages.
In the second Three Pines Mystery (see review of the first, Still Life, here), Inspector Gamache of the Surete de Quebec is back in the tiny village of Three Pines, this time looking into the death of an extremely unpleasant new resident. In the depths of winter, on an iced-over lake in the middle of a curling match, CC de Poitiers is murdered in front of most of the town. It looks like an impossible murder, especially as apparently no one saw anything. Gamache must apply his blend of careful police work and thoughtful understanding of people to find the killer, lest they strike again.
Once again Louise Penny demonstrates that she has a real gift for writing. The village comes to life in her hands, and I can almost feel the winter cold and storms (and I live in California!). Nor are her characters simple cut-outs. Every one, even the minor characters, has a depth that I as a writer envy.
The murder investigation is well-presented, though I guessed the killer long before Gamache did, and was bothered that none of the investigating team looked in that direction. There are a couple of sub-plots that also made progress. The obnoxious rookie is back, and may or may not have changed--Penny deliberately leaves some things ambiguous, though I think in the end they are made more clear. And there is another sub-plot, a more personal one for Gamache, that is completely left hanging, something that is okay since the main plot is dealt with, but which I still find itches me a bit. I am left wondering how many books I'll have to read to get this one cleaned up.
Overall, I think this is one of the best new series I've found in quite a while. I read right through this book practically without stopping (and that made me realize that I've been forcing myself to go forward with some books lately, and I'm not going to do that. If it's not the book for me right then, then I should cut my losses).
For lovers of a cozy that isn't too cozy--no gimmicks, just a fully-developed story with great characters who sometimes make you squirm, just like real people. A touch of police procedural but with the warm heart of a cozy.
Full Disclosure: I checked A Fatal Grace out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."