Wednesday 24 July 2019

Two short crime reviews

First up, How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny.

It's December, Christmas is fast approaching and Myrna, who owns the bookshop in Three Pines, has a visitor. Constance Pernault is a woman with secrets but she finds peace in the small isolated village in the middle of the Quebec forest and decides to return for the Christmas holiday itself. Before she can do so, however, she's murdered in her own home. Armand Gamache ends up with the case and he and Isobel Lacoste set about investigating without the help of Jean-Guy Beauvoir who, along with much of Gamache's faithful team, has been transferred out of his section. Events of the past few years, which involve corruption in the Surréte, are about to come to a head and Gamache is going to need his wits about him and all the help he can get, but who can he trust, and can he save Jean-Guy?

Oh, my goodness. Some books grab you by the throat and hang on while you ride the rollercoaster, gasping for breath, wondering if you'll be able to make it to the end intact. This is one of those books. It. Is. Intense. I thought the previous book, A Beautiful Mystery, was too but this beats it for intrigue and edge of your seat action. Of course it helps when you've been on the journey for so long, wondering as each book progressed when this backstory was all going to explode. In this, the culmination, it didn't disappoint. Wonderful. And I *really* want to go and live in Three Pines with Myrna, Clara, Ruth, Olivier, Gabri etc. Those forests must be amazing too, winter there must be quite an experience.

Next, Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers. This qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the March category of, 'Money/Fortune/Inheritance has major role'. It is also my book 16 for Bev's Mount TBR 2019.

Out to dinner with his police detective friend, Charles Parker, Lord Peter Wimsey falls into conversation with a doctor on the next table. Dr. Carr's career is in tatters after he questioned the death of an elderly patient with cancer. Yes, she was terminally ill, but he felt her death was by no means imminent. Intrigued, Wimsey starts to look into it despite the advice of Parker who feels there is no murder to investigate: the autopsy had revealed nothing after all. But quite a lot of things don't add up. Who was the solicitor who arrived uninvited and was sent away with a flea in his ear? Why were two maids dismissed for no real reason? When the dead body of one of the maids is found in Epping Forest the police suddenly sit up and take notice. But this is one of those impossible crimes and the brains of Lord Peter Wimsey are required to figure it all out.

'My dear Charles,' said the young man with the monocle, 'it doesn't do for people, especially doctors, to go about "thinking" things. They may get into frightful trouble.'

This book is full of this kind of witty dialogue. Which is of course why Sayers' writing appeals to me so much. Plot-wise, there's an obvious culprit all the way through, and it's not so much 'whodunnit' but did anyone actually do anything at all and if so 'how?' and, especially, 'why?' So it's unusual from start to finish and I liked this very much as I wasn't sure of anything really. One death towards the end of the story hit me quite hard, it doesn't happen often. Usually the dead person is a Rum Lot and it's hard to conjure up sympathy, or it's someone the author hasn't talked about very much so you haven't got to know them, but this death was different and very sad. A warning... this book is very much of its time - the 1920s - and thus displays a few attitudes which we don't hold any more. I find it interesting to see how far we've come in almost a hundred years, but also hearing these things said takes me back to my childhood in the 50s and 60s when such attitudes were still held, although things were changing thank goodness. All in all, a cracking read. I still have 3 or 4 Wimsey's left to read but will mourn the loss of them when I've finished. Will try the ones written by Jill Paton Walsh then to see how they hold up.



DesLily said...

Wow, they both sound good.. but especially the Louise Penny book! I so love when a book grabs me so much I have difficulty putting it down!!

TracyK said...

You are way ahead of me in the Louise Penny series. I will read #5, The Brutal Telling, sometime this year for the Canadian Challenge, and then maybe book 6. I have mixed reactions to Sayers. Some I like a lot, some seem less appealing to me now when I reread them. This one does not sound familiar, I should give it a try again.

Judith said...

Hi Cath,
I'm sorry to have been so much out of touch lately!
I am very much intrigued by your comments about both books, though the one set in the 20s and your thoughts about it capture me most of all.
Had a bit of a let down in the reading train mid-July, but hope to be back up to speed soon.
After a heat wave, we've just finished a spell of less humid, cooler, sunny days--so much fun to have the windows open for a change!
How, indeed, is your garden?
Best wishes to you,

Nan said...

Gosh, I'm sure I've read this, but it was a long time ago. So long, I don't remember the sad death. Oh, how I love the characters in Wimsey's world.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

Somehow the Louise Penny books have passed me by - and I'm reluctant to start another series, but this one sounds so gripping maybe I will.

I am deep into Clouds of Witness right now and am loving it. I have a copy of Unnatural Death too and am so glad you enjoyed that too ... can't wait to get to it. Attitudes certainly have changed, along with so many other things too, since the 1920s, although as you say they were still around in the 50s and 60s, and maybe even later too, sadly.

Sam said...

Louise Penny has taken her Gamache books to a level of intensity I never expected when I began the series - and I love her for doing it. Like you, I've been on the journey for years, and I feel like I know all the main characters personally now. That only happens with the best writers and the best series. Maybe we can be neighbors in Three Pines.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

Like many of your previous commenters, Louise Penny has passed me by as an author, despite my best efforts and your continued encouragement! It does sound as though the back story is particularly crucial in this series though, so I won't be making any attempt to join mid way through!

Dorothy Sayers I haven't read since I was a teenager, when I dined out on both hers and Agatha Christie's books and read them as avidly and quickly as I possibly could. The characters and language of a bygone era of gentility, even in murder, is something I quite miss and which I do indulge in as often as I can.

Two such different storylines, styles of writing and narrative and yet I enjoy both equally. Thanks for sharing your reviews and I hope that your next book is just as engrossing :)


Cath said...

Pat: It's so rare when a book grabs you like that. Would be nice if more did but you wouldn't appreciate the really good ones if there weren't any average ones. LOL

Tracy: Oh wow, you have a treat in store with the next two Gamache books as they're connected and really, really superb.

Judith: Nice to have you back with us.

We've had some hot weather, broken up by thunderstorms which nicely watered the parched garden. We're not growing so many veg this year but what we're growing is doing well. We seem to have concentrated more on the flower beds for some strange reason. It's due to be quite a bit cooler next week which I'm glad about, I don't do heat very well.

Nan: The death in this one hit me because it was a young woman whose youth and vulnerability had been taken advantage of and I suppose having a grand-daughter of a similar age didn't help. A good writer can have that effect I find.

Margaret: For some reason I didn't realise that you have not read Louise Penny yet. I would venture to suggest that you would love the books, particularly as the books become excellent after the first couple.

I thought Clouds of Witness was excellent, so funny in places and that scene where they get lost on the moors in the fog was truly scary.

Sam: Nope, I can't say that I expected this level of intensity or *excellence* really, when I started the series. You're right that it only happens with the best writers. I have a handful of favourites who never fail to impress with every single book. They seem to have that something 'extra', although what that is I can't quite say.

Yvonne: Yes, the backstory to the Gamache books is quite important from around book 3 or 4 if memory serves. So, no, it would not be a good idea to plunge in halfway through the series.

I don't know how but although I read some Agatha Christie in my teens I somehow never came across Dorothy L. Sayers. I have no clue how I managed that, but only came to her over the past 5 or 6 years. To be honest, I'm not sure I would've appreciated the humour in my teens as much as I can now. I might be doing myself down there but I don't think so.

Have a good weekend!

Susan said...

HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN is my favorite Gamache book so far. It's intense and painful, but amazing as well. Glad you loved it!

Cath said...

It's definitely one of my favs, Susan, but I think my overall favourite is probably the English library in Montreal one, I think called Bury Your Dead.