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A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

A Fatal Grace (2006)

by Louise Penny

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,7161164,138 (3.95)485
  1. 00
    I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows and A Fatal Grace are cozy mysteries set in small towns. In each, the victim is disliked by many; thus, many have motives to kill. It is up to the ingenious protagonists to solve the crime.
  2. 00
    Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Cecilturtle)
  3. 00
    A Stillness in Bethlehem by Jane Haddam (Littlemissbashful)
    Littlemissbashful: Both books feature cerebral detectives in snowbound and idyllic village settings during the Christmas season - The stories take place within close knit communities with hidden secrets and unsympathetic victims. Both have a full supporting cast of characters including various 'eccentrics', feisty old ladies, flaky artists, gay hoteliers, suspect clergy and village scapegoats etc.… (more)

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English (113)  French (2)  All languages (115)
Showing 1-5 of 113 (next | show all)
I read a lot of mysteries, many of them quite good, but along comes Louise Penny who sets the bar higher. The small town setting and interesting townsfolk are a common theme among mysteries, but there is something that is just that much better about them in this series. Everything is so much more developed. I can really see the town and I feel like I know the characters, both residents and detectives who are brought in. Louise Penny makes sure that there is enough told about each of them to give me a real feel for each and every one, but does it in a way that does not slow down the pace. Too much description can turn me off quickly, but I felt none of that here.
A Fatal Grace gives some interesting insights to the victim before she is killed. While the victim is not likable, that in itself adds to the story. There is hardly a person alive who wouldn't want to make this bitch disappear, making her a real pleasure to hate. She turns up dead after a brief but essential introduction, and the story gets rolling at a good pace and keeps its momentum very nicely.
( )
  StephLaymon | Jan 26, 2016 |
[Cross-posted to Knite Writes]


A woman that everyone hates, CC de Poitiers, is murdered at the annual Three Pines Christmas Curling Match. Thing is, she isn’t shot or stabbed or beaten, she’s electrocuted. On the ice and snow. What?

Chief Inspector Gamache is called in to investigate CC’s murder and returns to Three Pines to find it recovering from the death of Jane Neal the year before (in Still Life). He reunites with his friends and acquaintances in the small village while delving into the life of CC, who had recently moved there.

What he finds is that basically everyone loathed CC because she was a delusion, self-centered…well, you get the idea. She had these grand notions that she was going to become some hotshot interior designer based on this BS philosophy she’d created called Li Bien. She’d self-published her own self-help/design/philosophy book call “Be Calm,” a name which just happens to overlap with a center run by one of the elderly women in Three Pines.

Eventually, Gamache unravels the truth about CC. Her mother was an unstable woman from who ended up homeless decades ago, and CC was taken from her when she was young. CC spent much of her life searching for mother and moved to Three Pines because she became convinced her mother lived there. Little did she know her mother was a vagrant, and right before Christmas, when CC was parading her book around Montreal, she ran into her mother into the streets. When she realized who her mother was, she ended up killing her in a fit of rage, furious that her idealized version of her history would be tarnished by a homeless person.

CC’s end was the result of her own personality. After fourteen constant years of emotional abuse, CC’s daughter Crie snapped and used her exceptional intellect to kill her mother at the curling match. Three women in Three Pines try to cover for Crie because they realize that 1) CC was the daughter of their old friend Eleanor, and 2) CC was abusing Crie. The three women confess to the murder of CC, but Gamache finds a hole in their confession and uncovers the truth. Crie, who’s nearly catatonic due the emotional abuse, is put into psychiatric care, unlikely to ever go to trial.

So the day is saved again. Sort of. Turns out there are people conspiring to end Gamache’s career, and Gamache seems have no idea what’s coming.

The End.


My Take

Okay, this one was slightly less “cozy” than the first book in the series. Only slightly. It still took a long time to get where it was going, and though all the characters were really interesting (much more so in this book than the last), I felt the pacing could have been increased in several places.

I liked how the stakes were a bit higher in this book. In Book 1, Gamache and crew spent have the story trying to figure out if Jane Neal’s death was a suicide. This time, they know CC’s death is murder, so they start investigating people from the get-go. Like in the last book, there’s one truly dangerous event that threatens the characters, but otherwise, it’s mostly them uncovering the complex relationships between characters.

This isn’t necessarily a focus I mind. In fact, I do enjoy watching how all the character interactions feed into the main plot of the book, how everyone’s histories and personalities contribute to the murder. It’s an interesting take when contrasted to the adrenaline-pumping thrillers I’m familiar with. As a character-driven writer, I admire this perspective.

On the other hand, like I said, the pacing was a bit too slow for me. However, I’m probably going to read the rest of the series — especially since there’s a building overarching plot line centered on Gamache that I know (from reading spoilers) gets really intense in later books.



Nothing to report on Penny’s writing. Same as last time. Third person omniscient. Lots of POV jumps. Lots of scene breaks. But it’s all very well organized. Nothing is confusing. A bit dense in places, I think. Maybe trimming out some of the excess detail would speed up the pace.


Is It Worth Reading?

Well, this is the second book in the series. Read the first one if it sounds like your cup of tea. If you like that, you’ll like this one.



3/5 ( )
  ClaraCoulson | Nov 16, 2015 |
Gave up after 70 plus pages as it never seemed to get anywhere. One of the characters demise was hinted at very early on but still hadn't happened after 70 pages and nothing much else had either. ( )
  edwardsgt | Oct 18, 2015 |
I am always attracted to a series and although I enjoyed the characterizations, the murder story line seemed very improbable, and I found myself saying..."Now what...?" However, that said, I plan to continue as I hear good things about later books. ( )
  readyreader | Oct 9, 2015 |
I was disappointed in the second of the Three Pines mysteries, thinking that Louise Penny had crammed way too many characters, most of them present in Still Life, into this book. The murder was incredibly complicated, too much so. And the overarching conspiracy, only vaguely understandable, seem like a gimmick to bring readers to the next in the series. ( )
  wdwilson3 | Sep 25, 2015 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Louise Pennyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cosham, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Denneman, MayaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nagano, KiyomiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saint-Germain, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salminen, RaimoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stumpf, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werbeck, GabrieleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, RobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yi, Tong-yunTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zielinski, Dana M.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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For my brother Doug and his family, Mary, Brian, Roslyn, and Charles, who showed me what courage really is. Namaste.
First words
Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have bought her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift.
It was almost impossible to electrocute someone these days, unless you were the governor of Texas.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
"Dead Cold" was published in the US as "A Fatal Grace."
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
When sadistic socialite CC de Poitiers is fatally electrocuted at a Christmas curling competition in the tiny Québecois village of Three Pines, only the arcane method of the murder is a surprise in Penny's artful but overwritten sophomore effort (after her highly praised 2006 debut, Still Life). CC had cobbled together a spiritual guidance business based on eliminating emotion, but the feelings she inspired in others were anything but serene. Everyone around the cartoonish victim—from a daughter cowed by lifelong abuse to the local spiritual teacher whose business she threatens to ruin—has a motive, and the crime also links to a vagrant's recent murder as well as to the pasts of several beloved village residents. The calm but quirky Chief Insp. Armand Gamache, who arrives in Three Pines from Montreal to head the investigation, is appealing as the series' focus. Though Penny gorgeously evokes the smalltown Christmas mood, the novel is oddly steeped in holiday atmosphere for a May release, and the plot's dependence on lengthy backstory slows the momentum. (May)

Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.
No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter - certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.
When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC du Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet so one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder - or brilliant enough to succeed?
With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312947135, Mass Market Paperback)

Winner of the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel!

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to investigate a woman’s death, it doesn’t take long for him to realize that no love was lost on Miss de Poitiers. But even if everyone hated her—her husband, lover, and daughter among them—how is it that no one saw her get electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake in the center of town?

Gamache digs beneath the surface of Three Pines to find where the real secrets are buried. But other troubles lie ahead for the detective. It seems he has some enemies of his own…and with the coming of the bitter winter winds, something far more chilling is in store. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:57 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Sent to a village south of Montreal to investigate the death of CC de Poitiers, an extremely unpopular woman apparently killed in an electrical accident, Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec finds that nearly everyone in town had a motive to kill her.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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