Book Review: A Better Man by Louise Penny

Posted November 1, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: A Better Man by Louise Penny

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Better Man by Louise Penny
Genres: Mystery, Police Procedural
Published by Minotaur Books on August 27. 2019
Pages: 417
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Still Life, A Fatal Grace, A Rule Against Murder, The Cruelest Month, The Brutal Telling, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, The Nature of the Beast, A Great Reckoning, Still Life, Kingdom of the Blind, Bury Your Dead , The Beautiful Mystery , How the Light Gets In , The Long Way Home , The Nature of the Beast , A Great Reckoning , Glass Houses , All The Devils are Here

Fifteenth in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series set in Québec, Canada, and revolving around the Canadian police force and Gamache.

My Take

Whoaaa, the first three lines took me aback! Tweets that say Clara sucks as an artist. What??? Nor is she the only whose “talents” are being questioned, as it’s Gamache’s first day back at work. Under Jean-Guy.

Gamache is a phoenix, coming back, but the agents witnessing his return had never thought to see it and are questioning every move they anticipate that Gamache and Beauvoir will make. Phew, Penny ups that tension making it obvious that Gamache influenced every one of those agents.

What’s making life even more interesting is all the nasty posts and tweets going out about Gamache. It became more person with Toussaint’s attitude, which was so bewildering…and I hated her. Couple all this with Penny’s summing up of the corruption earlier in the series with the agents now questioning Gamache’s fitness (especially in How the Light Gets In, 9), and it gets really tense.

Gamache is an amazing man, especially for a cop. He’s gentle and persistent, wanting to bring the good out in everyone. It’s a result that is exemplified by Jean-Guy’s action in the bar and his instructions to his men. Priceless.

It’s cozy and terrifying, warm and freezing, accepting and off-putting. Thank god for the comic relief offered through Ruth and Rosa.

It’s through Penny’s use of third person global subjective point-of-view, which allows us into the hearts and minds of many of the characters, battling their anger, stoking their passion, and raising their fears. One fear is Reine-Marie’s, that Jean-Guy must be with Armand to keep him safe.

I hate to admit this, but Clara’s crisis is as important [to me] as Gamache’s. Her art career has been so amazing and now collectors want to return her work!?? Then Dominica shows up and rocks Clara’s world even more. A conflicting blend of acknowledgment and truth. I love that Three Pines also rocks Dominica’s prejudices! But Clara must face her critics, face her own work, and understand the truth behind the malice.

The multiple red herrings threw me for a loop, and Penny continued to confuse me with the convoluted reasoning(s) that explained and re-explained, and then re-explained yet again what had happened. Oy. My head is still spinning.

It all comes down to a dog, the truthful malice of social media, the truth about Vivienne and about Clara’s “brave experiment”, and falling for the obvious.

Too many people had something to lose if Vivienne lived.

The Story

A pregnant woman with an abusive husband is missing, flood waters are rising across the province, and Gamache is back, demoted, with social media tearing him apart. Nor is he the only victim of this public and anonymous forum of malice, as Clara Morrow faces vicious judgments about her art.

Both Gamache and Clara must face a horrific possibility, and their own burning question: What would you do if your child’s killer walked free?

The Characters

Former Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache is back. Under Beauvoir. Reine-Marie Gamache is his wife who retired from her job as a librarian, and they bought a house in Three Pines (How the Light Gets In). Henri, a young German shepherd the Gamaches rescued, and little Gracie are their current dogs, and it looks like Fred, Vivienne’s dog, may be joining the pack. Daniel is the son who lives in Paris with his wife and their two girls, Florence and Zora.

Three Pines is…
…a tiny village that can’t be found on any map through which the Bella Bella River runs, where so many have died, and where the Gamaches retired to live among friends who include Myrna Landers, a former psychologist-turned-bookseller; Clara Morrow, an excellent artist (who sold out!) who was finally recognized (A Trick of the Light, 7); Leo is Clara’s puppy; the drunk and disorderly, ancient Ruth Zardo is a famous — and crazy — poet as well as the chief of the volunteer fire department, which is based in the old train station (a frequent temporary Homicide command post); Rosa is Ruth’s pet duck; Gabri Dubeau and Olivier Brulé are a gay couple who run the bistro and B&B; Sarah is a baker; the heavily accented Billy Williams maintains the roads, does odd jobs, and has a crush on Myrna; and, Monsieur Béliveau is the grocer with a general store.

The Sûreté du Québec is…
…the Canadian national police force where Madeleine Toussaint is now in charge as chief superintendent, Gamache’s old job. A city boy, Chief Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir is in charge for another few weeks — he’s resigned and moving with his family. A family that includes Annie Gamache, Armand’s daughter and a lawyer, and their baby son, Honoré.

Superintendent Isabelle Lacoste is still recovering from injuries suffered nine months ago on the job. She’s mentoring Cloutier. Lacoste has a son and daughter.

The klutzy Agent Lysette Cloutier is an accountant whom Gamache thought would be useful in Homicide. She’s not at all keen on staying. She’s also Vivienne’s godmother and had been best friends with Kathy.

Dr Sharon Harris is the coroner. The Honorable Caroline Pelletier is the residing judge at the Superior Court. Zalmanowitz is the prosecutor.

Pierre, the Deputy Premier of Canada, despises Gamache. The Royal 22e Régiment of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Van Doos, will be deployed. The anti-men Simone Fleury is on the board of the Réseau de Violence Conjugale du Québec and runs the local women’s shelters. Her father was a judge who beat her and her siblings. Her husband was a banker who beat her.

Commander Brigitte Flaubert is in charge of the Sûreté here. Agent Bob Cameron had been a tackle with the Montréal Alouettes with a desperate need to protect. He has a wife and children.

Vivienne Godin is pregnant and missing from the farm she shares with Carl Tracey, her violent husband, a sculptor. Homer Godin is Vivienne’s worried father who lives in Ste.-Agathe. Kathy had been Vivienne’s cold mother.

Pauline Vachon is Carl’s partner and runs his website and social media. NouveauGalerie is a falsity. Gerald Bertrand babysits his sister’s, Pam‘s, daughter, Vendredi, a.k.a., Dee, who likes Babar. Dominica Oddly is the incredibly influential art critic for an online journal, Odd. Other artists who create pottery include Lucie Rie, Grayson Perry, and Elisabeth Kley. Toby is fifteen and runs a successful drug gang. Fourteen-year-old Daph is one of his.

The Cover and Title

The cover is red, white, and blue. A white background for the curvy ribbons of ice in their shades of blue waving in a vertical line from top to bottom. At the very top is an info blurb in black followed by the author’s name in shades of black and gray. The title is below it in a gradient of red to a darker red. Beneath that, at the very bottom, is the information that this is a novel, in black — I’d’ve preferred series information, but what the hell, I’m just a reader.

You might think the title refers to Armand Gamache, but it is more subtle than that. Because of Gamache, Jean-Guy Beauvoir is A Better Man, and so are the men who follow them.

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2 responses to “Book Review: A Better Man by Louise Penny

  1. Stormi

    I just recently started this series and really like it! I am on book six so I have a ways to go! 🙂 Great review as always!

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