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A World of Curiosities: A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery, NOW A MAJOR TV SERIES CALLED THREE PINES

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Despite my best intentions to slowly enjoy this book, I devoured it in one huge gulp. Oh well, it just means I have to wait longer for my next Gamache novel. it begins in the past, with recollections of the murder of a prostitute and drug addict whose two children were discovered to be victims of sexual abuse. The case has haunted Gamache and his second in command Jean Guy Beauvoir for many years. From her basket of recurring themes, Penny choses in A World of Curiosities to focus on the sometimes unintended impact of art and literature on emotions and actions, and the potential for good and evil to exist in any individual, no matter how well one or the other may be hidden. As with many of the series' books that are set in the tiny village of Three Pines, this one includes a blend of the all-too-real-world with what seems to be a vaguely magical-realism-world. A World of Curiosities is Louise Penny's 18th novel in a series featuring the fictional character Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The attic copy of the Paston painting is subtly altered with sinister additions, and Gamache is certain it's the work of his sworn enemy, serial killer John Fleming. Gamache believes the painting is a death threat from Fleming, but the killer's been incarcerated for years.

Armand and Ren-Marie are a model loving couple, and their family is by now a model, too. Goodness, kindness, prevails, and as things seem to get worse in the world (and in the books), Gamache’s insistent ethical messages get all the more insistent. “Cosies” were the way the early books were described; even Penny said the murders in the books were sort of incidental to her characters and their world. Wow, I can't believe I've just read the 18th book of the series! I thought it would have been rounded off long ago. Maybe I would have stopped reading the series too, because the author's writing style can be quite annoying. She varies her sentence length. Too much. Sometimes, for no apparent reason. It's a bit less obvious when listening. Treasures, from the 1860s (the original can be viewed online.) On further observation, there are some startling changes noticed in the painting. A woman is wearing a digital watch, and a model plane is depicted. There are almost imperceptible codes embedded in the picture implying vengeance. How is this possible in a room sealed off for more than a century? Virtuoso… blends nuanced characterization with nail-biting suspense…This tale of forgiveness and redemption will resonate with many.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

On the real world side of the ledger, I found her depiction of one psychopath completely unnerving. So many books labeled as "psychological thrillers" these days are, IMNSHO, duds, leaving me with the feeling that the victims (typically women) are simplistic idiots. Not so here! In a few scenes scattered throughout the book, the menace bubbling below the surface of this character made my hair stand on end.

In this 18th book in the 'Chief Inspector Armand Gamache' series, the detective faces off against an old foe. The book can be read as a standalone, but familiarity with the series is a bonus.

Excerpt

The book’s present is set in Three Pines following a graduation ceremony of college engineering graduates Harriet Landers and Fiona Arsenault, the now-grown female sibling from the earlier case. Fiona is staying with the Gamache family while her charismatic brother Sam, mistrusted by Gamache but not Beauvoir, is staying nearby. This part also works: Sam is clearly a malevolent force, and while we do see Fiona manipulating others, the novel sets up enough question marks that it’s unclear if Sam or Fiona is the ringleader. Gamache believes that Sam has it out for him while Beauvoir worries that Fiona is not to be trusted. The Paston Treasure is one of the most enigmatic paintings in Western art. A new book and exhibition, now on view at the painting’s home in the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, in Norfolk, UK (June 23–September 23, 2018), tell the story of the family of collectors who commissioned the work—which is still unattributed and largely shrouded in mystery—and delves into their obsession for beautiful objects. The interspersion of literary quotes and poems adds so much to the book. They may inject humor, but they may also connote other emotions, melancholy, sorrow, or a warning. It’s not unusual for the reader to spend time looking up the source material for some of the quotes. Penny does not make you wait for it. Every chapter takes hold and propels you forward. You do not want to put it down. Fiona Arsenault has turned her life around, gaining an engineering degree thanks to the support of Gamache and his wife. But the Chief has always felt uneasy about her younger brother, Sam. Everyone else is charmed by this handsome young man but Garmache fears there is a dark, malicious streak in his nature. His intuition tells him to be on his guard while Sam is in Three Pines.

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