Book Review: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

Posted October 27, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 7 Comments

Book Review: The Nature of the Beast 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.

The Nature of the Beast Published by Roc on August 25, 2015
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Eleventh in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series set in a small village in Quebec, Canada, and revolving around Armand, his former colleagues, and the people of Three Pines.

My Take

No. I can’t imagine Three Pines without the Gamaches. Even if it is gratifying to see all the job offers piling up.

It’s a terrifying start, that slowly begins to make a horrifying sense as you read further into the story. It was quite confusing until I realized it was part of Laurent’s imagining. Until I realized again, that it was not his imagination. Of course, Penny does make up for this by making other parts of it confusing. What the deal was with burying the script, I don’t know.

Gabri does crack me up, and his comments about how he intends to play his character set the rest of them off with their own wisecracking. Ruth, of course, is a constant crack-up. She’s such a mooch, and totally brazen about it. This time, I think it’s the Spic and Span that did me in. I did notice an anger from the core cast with Ruth in this story. They’ve always given Ruth a hard time — mostly in self-defense and in teasing — but this is the first time they’ve hurled a barrage of negatives at her.

“‘What’s the name for it when someone doesn’t understand, or care about, consequences?’

‘Ruth Zardo?'”

I can understand how frustrating Laurent can be, but how can you not love a boy who cherishes the stick his father carved for him?

It is an interesting exploration of censorship. When should one draw the line about a play or a story? Should the author’s identity make a difference?

I suspect Armand will go back to the Sûreté, if only because of how this case is so mishandled. Speaking of mishandling, Penny does wonders with the trope about the duplicitousness of spies. I mean, it is a given, and yet Penny makes it fresh with Gamache’s accusations and determinations. I have to wonder, as well, why she had those other two lie. Well, not lie so much as omit to say a word about what they knew. Then all that leaping to conclusions. That was irritating.

Well, yes it is obvious…once it was pointed out to me *eye roll* I do hate it when I am so unobservant.

The Nature of the Beast was a mostly good story. I’ll always pounce on a Gamache story if only because I adore the characters, especially Armand’s kindly detecting and Gabri for his humor and his fabulous cooking. Every. Single. Time, Penny pulls me in with the warmth, coziness, and meals at the bistro…sigh… However, Penny taunted me throughout this story; I raced through just to find out what was going on, and get past all that baiting.

Why is there always a next?

The Story

Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him.

But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true. And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth.

What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, it is back.

The Characters

The former Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has been content in his retirement, and vindicated when asked to return. Reine-Marie is his also-retired wife, although she still has the codes to the private archives. Henri is their German shepherd. Daniel is their married son who lives in Paris. I think Reine-Marie has a brother named Alphonse.

Three Pines is…
…a Brigadoon of a village, not visible on any map and difficult to find. Myrna used to be a practicing psychologist, now she runs a New and Used Bookstore. The so very gay Gabri and Olivier own the bistro and B&B. Clara Morrow is still mourning Peter (The Long Way Home, 10) and hasn’t painted in forever. Monsieur Clément Béliveau is the grocer and friends with the whacked Ruth Zardo whose goose-stepping duck, Rosa, has come back. Ruth is also the fire chief. Gilles Sandon used to do a lot of work in the woods.

Antoinette Lemaitre is the clueless artistic director of the Knowlton Playhouse. Brian Fitzpatrick is her partner and one of the Estrie Players. Her uncle, Guillaume Couture, was a mechanical engineer. Their neighbors include Madame Proulx.

Laurent Lepage is a nine-year-old boy with a great imagination. His parents, Al and Evie, run an organic farm and adore their son.

Sûreté de Québec
Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste used to work under Armand; she’s taken over since he retired. Jean-Guy Beauvoir now works with her; he’s married to Annie, the Gamaches’ daughter. Chief Superintendent Thérèse Brunel is now the head of the Sûreté after events in How the Light Gets In, 9. Favreau is practically brand new and more concerned with his authority. Agent Brassard has more sense. The Homicide team will set up in the old train station again. Agent Yvette Nichol gets a call. Agent Adam Cohen gets courier duty (How the Light Gets In).

Project Babylon is/was…
…a surreptitious Grimm’s fairy tale for physicists. Its creator was said to be Dr. Gerald Bull, a visionary salesman and arms dealer. General Langelier is the commander for the Canadian Forces Base Valcartier. Professor Michael Rosenblatt, a physicist, was with McGill University and specialized in ballistics and high altitude. Rosenblatt finds that people trust him more when he talks of his “grandson”, David. Mary Fraser and Sean Delorme are file clerks for Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Yeah, right… HARP was the High Altitude Research Project.

Susan Bonner is a newscaster for the World at Six.

Frederick Lawson was a private in the U.S. Army, a deserter trying to evade his part in a trial for massacring a village. Shades of My Lai!

John Fleming is worse than scum, a horror of a serial killer, and has been in the Special Handling Unit at the prison for the past 18 years.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a black hole, both real and metaphysical, with the green of the forest forming a frame around it. The title is in a metallic colonial blue embossed font while the rest of the text — the author’s name, the series info, and the NYT blurb are in gold.

The title is about spies, about humans, about weapons designers, it’s The Nature of the Beast to kill.

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7 responses to “Book Review: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

    • It is. I absolutely love Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. It’s a cozy sort of mystery in that it takes place — most of the time — in the village of Three Pines with a fascinating assortment of characters and the f-o-o-d at the bistro. But Penny takes it up several notches with making this a more intelligent cozy than one is used to. Which sounds sort of snotty of me, but it’s that blend of cozy + serious detective. Hmmm, only Gamache is serious but in a very kind way. Ya gotta read it, Laura. You won’t regret it.

  1. Thanks for writing this review. Identifying the characters was especially helpful for me. I don’t read the books in order so I am often left wondering about a new character. I especially like being told what earlier book a character appeared in.

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