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A Better Man by Louise Penny
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Catastrophic spring flooding, blistering attacks in the media, and a mysterious disappearance greet Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he returns to the Sûreté du Québec in the latest novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny. It's Gamache's first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter. As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father. Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel..., he resumes the search. As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made. In the next novel in this "constantly surprising series that deepens and darkens as it evolves" (New York Times Book Review), Gamache must face a horrific possibility, and a burning question. What would you do if your child's killer walked free?… (more)
Title:A Better Man
Authors:Louise Penny
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A Better Man by Louise Penny



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Not Quite Better
Review of an ARC copy of the hardcover edition (2019)

I missed the usual cozy feel of the Three Pines gatherings in this latest outing. There was an overhanging sense of bitterness and backstabbing which was highlighted by nasty fictitious twitter comments being used as chapter epigraphs. Some of the subplots seemed to get short measure, such as the flooding, and I never really got the meaning of the backlash on Clara's art. Lastly the grim nature of the murder and its resolution left a feeling of despondency.

Still, any time spent with Gamache and Marie-Reine and Ruth and her duck is going to be entertaining and provide for some worldly wisdom and humour. I can't give less than a 4 rating even if I was slightly dissatisfied.

I was lucky enough to borrow a friend's ARC copy for this reading. I've since discovered that there is an author's Afterword that was not yet available for the ARC, and which explains some of her choices, so I'll have to seek that out as well in a final published copy. ( )
  alanteder | Sep 20, 2019 |
Two years ago, I somehow came across “Still Life”, the first in a series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec, Canada. It was a good book, no doubt, and I was quick to catch up with the series which I greatly enjoyed.

What I expected to be a standard police procedural turned out to be so much more. Gamache isn’t the young, enthusiastic investigator but a man in his fifties who has experienced a lot and instead of becoming disillusioned, embittered or hopeless as one might expect, he grows.

“Things are strongest where they’re broken.” is how Gamache puts it and how he lives – and he himself has been broken a lot of times. He’s not the “Gentleman cop” that George’s Lynley is (or used to be). He’s not Rankin’s cynical Inspector Rebus.

Armand Gamache is a literary unicum.

In this fifteenth novel of the series, Gamache investigates the disappearance of a young woman who is beaten by her husband. She is soon found dead and so is her murderer. If he can be convicted, though, is not quite as certain...

As always, Gamache’s home, the small village “Three Pines”, and its inhabitants play a role (albeit less prominently than in some of the other books) and we get treated to all the familiar characters like Ruth, the semi-insane poet, Clara, the artist, and, of course, Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle Lacoste.

The relationships between the characters are another of the major highlights of this series: The closely-knit and yet open, welcoming and open-minded community of “Three Pines” is the fictious place we would love our kids to grow up in.

These books live from the relationships so lovingly depicted and the almost mythical quality of “Three Pines”.

As with every one of her Gamache novels, Penny has a fundamental topic which might not continually take a centre place but which will surface throughout the novel. In this case it’s vigilantism – how do the central characters deal with it themselves when most seriously tempted; when all it would take is looking away at the right moment...

“It was all Jean-Guy Beauvoir could do not to turn around. March back to […]. Tell Armand and Reine-Marie and Billy to look away while he forced […] to a kneeling position, took out his gun. Placed it at the base of the monster’s skull. And fired.”

And – how would we deal with it? Would we give in to the temptation? I’m going to admit it: I for one was sympathising with Beauvoir at that (rather early!) point in the story. I hope I’d do as he does...

Would we be able to face the consequences of our deeds?

““Consequences,” said Gamache. “We must always consider the consequences of our actions. Or inaction. It won’t necessarily change what we do, but we need to be aware of the effect.”

Ultimately, though, both Gamache and Beauvoir disregard exactly that advice and that’s part of what so greatly appeals to me about those two men. When they feel they have to act, they’re just going to do it – no matter the consequences because it’s right:

“Homer plowed right through them, running straight into the Bella Bella. Wading in. Breaking through the thin ice at the shore, he fought his way forward. To get to his little girl.

Gamache and Beauvoir plunged in after him.”

Even if that means plunging into a flooding river – and Penny pulls that off effortlessly. She has given each character her books so much personality that we never – not for a second – doubt they would do this. It’s another one of the immense strengths of Penny’s story-telling – she is a master of characterisation.

As similar both Gamache and Beauvoir are, they are different kinds of investigators which is another highly interesting aspect of the Gamache novels:

“While Jean-Guy Beauvoir explored the tangible, what could be touched, Armand Gamache explored what was felt. He went into that chaotic territory. Hunting. Searching. Tracking. Immersing himself in emotions until he found one so rancid it led to a killer.

Beauvoir stopped at the door. Gamache went through it.”

All this may sound intimidating if you’re just in it to read a good mystery but do not despair because while there’s lots of serious wisdom and kindness to be found in these books, they never take themselves too seriously and there’s always a good portion of humour involved:

“Isabelle. Jean-Guy. Armand. Three colleagues. Three friends. A trinity. Sturdy. Eternal. Together. “Three Pines,” she said. “Three Stooges,” said Ruth as she walked by and entered the bistro.”

As usual, there are very few things not to like about a Gamache novel but there are two minor issues in this one: First of all, there’s a huge flooding. Basically, the entire province of Quebec is in a state of emergency and we get to read quite a bit about it in the first half of the book. This entire part of the story is pretty much completely neglected in the second half. It’s not a big deal but it’s a loose end that could easily have been avoided.

A little more annoying were the weird and superfluous injections of Twitter messages at the beginning of a few chapters. They didn’t really add to the story and they were an unwelcome distraction. I don’t get why some authors these days seem to believe they cannot write a good modern book without directly adding social media parts. Especially when they obviously don’t quite grasp how said social media work (in a technological sense).

Nevertheless, these are really minor issues that simply don’t matter considering Louise Penny’s achievement by writing yet another, the fifteenth (!), absolutely fabulous book.

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  philantrop | Sep 17, 2019 |
Louise Penny tells a brilliant story, and A Better Man demonstrates this point. This will be Jean-Guy’s last investigation. In two weeks, he, Honore, and Annie will move to Paris. In two weeks, Jean-Guy will no longer be with the Surete, he will be safe to be with his family. Armand has returned to the Surete even though he has been ridiculed and blamed. A huge flood threatens the area as the winter thaw begins and a young woman has disappeared. Isabelle, Armand, and Jean-Guy race to find Vivienne hopefully alive. Vivienne, pregnant and drowned, floats in the raging water. Suicide or murder? The body reveals murder and the search begins with her abusive husband. The suspects run the gamut of husband, lover, godmother, will the Surete discover the truth? Louise Penny presents characters with flaws and insecurities. Like Clara with her new art form and the terrible reviews she has received. And the wisdom of Ruth and patience of Armand. I would love to see the series made into a movie with Jim Carter as Gamache. What will Armand do without Jean-Guy? ( )
  delphimo | Sep 16, 2019 |
As always, a combination of a warm, tender narrative with an intriguing mystery. ( )
  Doondeck | Sep 11, 2019 |
Well, Louise Penny has done it again. She is just so consistently good that I keep waiting for the next entry in the series with great anticipation every year at this time. What’s not to like? Suspense, Three Pines, the Bistro, the characters that I’ve come to love, the homey feeling she seemingly creates with such ease, and the food. Oh the food always sounds so good.

A woman is missing. She has a friend in the Surete who pushes for an investigation even though there is an emergency situation caused by flooding in the area. Soon, Gamache (who has been demoted following the events in the previous book), Beauvoir (who will soon be leaving to live in Paris. But will he really??), and Isabel Lacoste are investigating the woman’s disappearance. Suspense builds just as you would expect. Several suspects but one stands out.

All good stuff. I still have my usual complaints about Penny’s horribly unsatisfactory sentence structure (read: sentence fragments, choppy construction, lousy punctuation, etc.) but I find I can just ignore it here where if I saw it in other boos I’d be appalled. Oh well, a very satisfying mystery at any rate. ( )
  brenzi | Sep 10, 2019 |
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