Eli yearns to be a newspaper reporter and develops the capacity to recognise a story at an early age. Whilst their parents undertake relatively small scale heroin deals and yearn to make the score which they believe will allow them to escape the trade, the brothers are watched over by a retired criminal Slim Halliday.
Famous decades before, Slim had wasted most of his life in incarceration, much of it in solitary confinement, for the murder of a taxi driver and subsequent prison escapes. In viewing the bleak plight of these boys who grow up in a threatening environment, surrounded by people who are either hopeless or dangerous, the reader is caused to recognise the inevitability of a life's course.
Major crime is never excused or glorified in this novel, however the author crafts characters who perform according to a script determined by their parentage, geographical location, limited opportunity and exposure to sinister criminals who manipulate and exploit. The story demands consideration of what goodness remains in people who are undoubtedly criminal, sometimes ruthlessly bad and perhaps even murderers.
Do acts of kindness counter previous misdeeds? Can the worst criminals be considered 'good' if they are on your side? Mysterious elements prevail throughout the tale and Eli follows his nose and summons what limited help is available to him in a bid to discover the truth. And then, of course, there's the mystery of religion itself For the reader, meanwhile, there's a final beautiful mystery to contemplate: How does Penny consistently write such luminous and compassionate books?.
Illawarra Mercury "A tense plot with a finite group of suspects will keep the reader involved until the last clue". Country News "The Beautiful Mystery is an ingenious, sinister new novel". Ballarat Courier "Here is a good old-fashioned detective yarn with a believable plot, charming characters, a fascinating location and enough red herrings to keep the reader alert".
Herald Sun "One of the joys of detective fiction". Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light. Favorites of The Toronto Star: Best Books of 6 all genres Women Magazine: Top 10 Mystery of The Seattle Times: Top 10 Mystery of Quill and Quire: Top 10 Mystery of I-Tunes: Kirkus Review 'Penny, elevating herself to the pantheon that houses P. James, Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters, demonstrates an exquisite touch with characterization, plotting and artistic sensitivity.
The Bakery Murders: Challenge
James, Penny shows how the tight structure of the classical mystery story can accommodate a wealth of deeply felt emotions and interpersonal drama. Top of the genre. With her smart plot and fascinating, nuanced characters, Penny proves again that she is one of our finest writers. For connoisseurs of mysteries, success is judged by the genre's holy trinity: When all three attain excellence, a fourth quality shines through: Penny continues to amaze with each novel.
Wrapped in exciting plots and domestic details, her characters are people we want to follow through their very real joys and sorrows. Wonderful, complex characters and sophisticated plotting makes this a perfect book. Do not miss it. I keep using the word "stunning" for Ms. Penny's work time and time again.
And I keep saying "this one is the best one yet. HOW does she keep doing this? And continually top her own work? Some things many of us have been waiting for, a few things that will make you laugh out loud, some things that will break your heart and move you to tears along with a few surprise twists. You know - all those things that Louise Penny just keeps doing with such apparent ease.
As Quebec City shivers in the grip of winter, its ancient stone walls cracking in the cold, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache plunges into the most unusual case of his celebrated career. A man has been brutally murdered in one of the city's oldest buildings - a library where the English citizens of Quebec safeguard their history. And the death opens a door into the past, exposing a mystery that has lain dormant for centuries We've been working with a top walking tour company in the venerable old city, Tours Voir Quebec, and are very happy to endorse this.
It's available in either English or French. Bon voyage et Vive Gamache!
Meanwhile, Gamache dispatches his longtime colleague, Insp. Jean Guy Beauvoir, to the quiet town of Three Pines to revisit the case supposedly resolved at the end of the previous book. Few writers in any genre can match Penny's ability to combine heartbreak and hope in the same scene.
Increasingly ambitious in her plotting, she continues to create characters readers would want to meet in real life.
Wem ghost picture mystery resolved by eagled-eyed pensioner
People Magazine 4 out of 4 stars 'editor's pick'! Her beautifully elegiac sixth book interweaves three story lines while plumbing the depths of Gamache's grief. The result is sophisticated and moving - her best yet. Penny hits every note perfectly in what is one of the most elaborately constructed and remarkably moving mysteries in years.
Bring on the awards. Toronto Globe and Mail. The book, obviously, is a must-read for her fans, and demonstrates once again that she is in the first rank of crime-fiction writers in Canada, or indeed, in the world. Chaos is coming, old son. With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.
No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village?
And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him? Globe and Mail , Margaret Cannon For one thing she's a far more accomplished craftsman, relying more on depth of character than formula. She also likes a complex plot that owes more to human emotion and psychology than to clockwork timing. This puts her closer to PD James The best Gamache novel so far. Daily Mirror 4 stars out of five , Henry Sutton The Canadian village of Three Pines is given a shocking awakening when a stranger is found dead in the local bistro. But soon Chief Inspector Gamache discovers the bistro owner had a shady past.
It's not just the skill of the plot, but the way that words are never wasted and that so few of them can produce a vivid picture. Dialogue is perfect and there's a real talent for capturing the one-liners which make you laugh out loud. Shots Mag , Mike Stotter I have always been dismissive of the expression "I couldn't put it down", but after reading Louise Penny's latest story of the idyllic French Canadian village of Three Pines I acknowledge that there is some truth in it.
I read this book in one session, anxious to reach the unravelling of a complex plot dealing with mystery, artistic integrity, murder, of course, and relationships. Her courtly, poetry-loving Inspector Gamache, who peers into suspects' souls over meals so mouthwatering you'll want to book a flight, contributes a humane and sophisticated perspective on human foibles. Her fifth in the series is the finest of all. Fortunately, sagacious Gamache possesses the acumen to peel away the layers of deceit and to expose the truth.
Her characters are too rich, her grasp of nuance and human psychology too firm for the formula-bound Christie. No, Penny belongs in the hands of those who read not only P. At a cabin in the woods apparently belonging to the dead man, Gamache and his team are shocked to discover the remote building is full of priceless antiquities, from first edition books to European treasures thought to have disappeared during WWII.
Readers keen for another glimpse into the life of Three Pines will be well rewarded. Joseph Beth bookstores , Cincinnati, Ohio, Micheal Fraser I was prepared to be vastly entertained by a witty, sometimes funny and intricately plotted mystery whose solution always lies in the hearts of men and the ability of Gamache to suss out what lies within. I was not prepared for this compelling and unflinching look into the heart of darkness that resides within us all.
It is a universal truth that we can never fully know another human being and many times, not even ourselves. In a brutal telling itself, Penny connects us with our own humanity as well as others. She shows us the fragility of our existence and that even living within the pale doesn't exempt us and we can have everything taken away in a very short time. Plus an astonishing ending! Who could ask for anything more? With almost every word, she gives you something to hope for I'm shouting about it all over the place, and I'm already quite sure it will be in my Top Five Favorite Books of Add this to your "Gotta Read" list.
Wealthy, cultured and respectable, the Finney family is the epitome of gentility. When Irene Finney and her four grown-up children arrive at the Manoir Bellechasse in the heat of summer, the hotel's staff spring into action. For the children have come to this idyllic lakeside retreat for a special occasion - a memorial has been organised to pay tribute to their late father. But as the heat wave gathers strength, it is not just the statue of an old man that is unveiled. Old secrets and bitter rivalries begin to surface, and the morning after the ceremony, a body is found.
The family has another member to mourn. A guest at the hotel, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache suddenly finds himself in the middle of a murder enquiry. The hotel is full of possible suspects - even the Manoir's staff have something to hide, and it's clear that the victim had many enemies. With its remote location, the lodge is a place where visitors come to escape their pasts.
Until the past catches up with them Not only does the auberge offer grand views and the order and calm of old-world service, but it also observes a no-kill policy, with the proprietors feeding wild animals in winter and forbidding guests to hunt or fish. Someone obviously failed to explain that rule to the cultured but quarrelsome family holding a reunion to unveil a statue of their late patriarch, who makes his feelings felt by toppling down on one of his own.
As Gamache observes, things were not as they seemed, not even in a paradise like Bellechasse. And never in a Louise Penny mystery. Blackstone, unabridged, nine CDs, 11 hrs. Celebrated British narrator and actor Ralph Cosham brings this wonderful murder mystery to life and draws in listeners with his charisma. Penny's taut, darkly comedic tale features the Finney family, which has gathered for the installation of a statue of their long-dead patriarch.
When the statue falls and kills one of his daughters, Insp. Armand Gamache Cosham at his very best must unravel the plot before it's too late. Cosham's characters are refreshingly original and never overplayed, and the Old World quality of his voice invokes radio murder mysteries from decades past, creating an endlessly entertaining listening experience. Australian Women's Weekly Beautiful imagery, deft characterisation and deliciously dense plots Weekend Australian Louise Penny's village whodunits make perfect beach reading for this summer.
Notebook Magazine To say this book has an old-fashioned feel is not to denigrate it. There is nothing hard-boiled about Armand: Richmond Times-Dispatch Once again, Penny concocts an intricate and intriguing plot and peoples it with credible characters and the continually fascinating Gamache No murder would be complete, of course, without death. Denver Post An ingenious, impossible crime puzzle for the reader.
An IndieNext pick formerly BookSense for February 09 Mystery Reader five out of five stars Louise Penny has created in her Inspector Gamache series a clever combination of a police procedural and cozy mystery novel. The setting itself is reminiscent of the golden age of mysteries. Indeed this novel is a classic locked room mystery.
Penny has a superb command of the English language. As a mystery author, Ms. Penny plays fair with her readers. The Charlotte Observer 4 out of 4 stars At least two people are waiting very impatiently for this review to be done so I can pass the new Louise Penny along to them.
With just her fourth book, she already has that kind of well-deserved following Starred Library Journal Canadian author Penny has garnered numerous awards for her elegant literary mysteries featuring the urbane Armand Gamache, chief police inspector from Quebec. Gamache is intelligent, observant, and implacable, indispensible attributes for the sophisticated detection that characterizes this series Her psychological acumen, excellent prose, and ingenious plotting make this essential reading for mystery lovers and admirers of superb literary fiction.
Fans of Dorothy L. James, and Elizabeth George will also be delighted. One of the best traditional mystery series currently being published. Publishers Weekly Murder interrupts Chief Insp. It's a serious novel that bridges the gap between the mystery genre and mainstream fiction Louise Penny's fourth novel is an enduring mystery that begins and ends with the qualities that make great fiction writing -- compelling storytelling, evocative descriptions that are the heart of the story -- and characters the novel's soul who are rich in qualities and foibles that make them unforgettable -- and capable of murder.
Montreal Review of Books The plotting is flawless and when the murderer is finally revealed in a thrilling climactic scene Penny has found her perfect formula with the carefully constructed puzzle plot in the perfect village with the classic cast of characters. The fact that it's modern Quebec is the icing on the petit four Once the puzzle is set up, it's impossible to put this book down until it's solved.
Devotees of Christie will be delighted by Penny's clever plots and deft characters. In a traditional who-dunnit crime thriller that rivals Agatha Christie's Poirot, Gamache is a refreshing alternative to the hard-nosed stereotypical detective. Penny builds the lives and imperfections of the characters effectively, exposing the complexity of human nature, challenging the reader's opinion and creating a constant sense of suspicion.
This is a classic tale that proves that revenge is a dish best served ice cold. You have to read it The temptation is to scarf Penny's books like potato chips but it's ever wise to savor each bite and let the flavors fill your tongue. Easter in Three Pines is a time of church services, egg hunts and seances to raise the dead. A group of friends trudges up to the Old Hadley House, the horror on the hill, to finally rid it of the evil spirits that have so obviously plagued it, and the village, for decades. One of their numbers dies of fright.
As they peel back the layers of flilth and artiface that have covered the haunted old home, they discover the evil isn't confined there. Some evil is guiding the actions of one of the seemingly kindly villagers. A very personal demon is about to strike. A time of rebirth, when nature comes alive. And it become clear - for there to be a rebirth, there first must be a death. The mouthwatering food, the beautiful gardens, the quirky and literate villagers -- Three Pines is a charming oasis for the spirit The Scotsman There's real pleasure here.
Kirkus Review Perhaps the deftest talent to arrive since Minette Walters, Penny produces what many have tried but few have mastered: If you don't give your heart to Gamache, you may have no heart to give. Publishers Weekly Chief Insp. As Penny demonstrates with laser-like precision, the book's title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamache's personal and professional challenges - making this the series standout so far.
And this place, this wonderous, fantastical place. The thing about the Gamache novels is that while the crimes are intriguing, the people are downright fascinating not just Gamache himself, who manages to be completely original despite his similarities to Columbo and Poirot, but also the entire cast of supporting characters, who are so strongly written that every single one of them could probably carry an entire novel all by themselves.
The writing is sensual, full of sights and smells and tastes that will resonate with her readers. And although Penny paints an almost Grandma Moses idealized view of village life, it is a view tinged with ominous foreboding, reminiscent of the brooding images of Breughel and Bosch Penny's writing is rich in imagery and atmosphere and characterised by a very quick and highly verbal intelligence. Winter in Three Pines and the sleepy village is carpeted in snow. It's a time of peace and goodwill - until a scream pierces the biting air.
There's been a murder. Local police are baffled. A spectator at the annual Boxing Day curling match has been fatally electrocuted. Despite the large crowd, there are no witnesses and - apparently - no clues. Called in to head the investigation, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache unravels the dead woman's past and discovers a history of secrets and enemies. But Gamache has enemies of his own. Frozen out of decision-making at the highest level of the Surete du Quebec, Gamache finds there are few he can trust. As a bitter wind blows into Three Pines, something even more chilling is sneaking up behind him Gamache is a prodigiously complicated and engaging hero, destined to become one of the classic detectives.
Library Journal A highly intelliegent mystery. Penny's new title is sure to creat great reader demand for more stories featuring civilized and articulate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Booklist Gamache, a smart and likable investigator - think Columbo with an accent, or perhaps a modern-day Poirot This is a fine mystery in the classic Agatha Christie style and it is sure to leave mainstream fans wanting more. Koch For all the perplexing mechanics of the murder, and the snowed-in village setting, this is not the usual "cosy" or even a traditional puzzle mystery.
It's a finely written, intelligent and observant book. Imbued with a constant awareness of the astonishing cold, this perfect blend of police procedural and closed-room mystery finds its solution, as in the best of those traditions, in the slow unlayering of a sorrowful past. Her characters leap from the page, her plotting is sublime, the atmosphere she builds in a bitter Quebec winter in Dead Cold, completely chilling. The writing is superb. And like Gamache, you too will be drawn to Three Pines and to this work of magical realism masquerading as a cosy English mystery. We're back in the charming Quebec village of Three Pines The setting is wonderfully done, as are the characters.
The solution is perfectly in tune with their psychology and there's plenty of evidence that Gamache will make a third appearance. Sooner or later the whole world will discover Penny. With a unique sense of timing, patience and subtle wit, Penny is able to create a whodunit that recalls those of Agatha Christie Magically bringing the postcard village of Three Pines to life, she gives it innocence, allows a touch of evil to intrude and then brings in the outsider, the intriguing Gamache, to solve the crime. The result is an engrossing read that will only add to the ranks of her readers.
Shotsmag, UK This is a wonderful novel, full of mystery. It is as deeply layered as snow drifting down upon snow. The cold will seep into your bones so wrap up warm and have a good hot drink at your elbow. As the early morning mist clears on Thanksgiving Sunday, the homes of Three Pines come to life - all except one. To locals, the village is a safe haven. So they are bewildered when a well-loved member of the community is found lying dead in the maple woods.
Surely it was an accident - a hunter's arrow gone astray. Who could want Jane Neal dead? Gamache knows something dark is lurking behind the white picket fences, and if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will begin to give up its secrets. Kirkus Review Cerebral, wise and compassionate, Gamache is destined for stardom. Don't miss this stellar debut. Publishers Weekly Like a virtuoso, Penny plays a complex variation on the theme of the clue hidden in plain sight. Filled with unexpected insights, this winning traditional mystery sets a solid foundation for future entries in the series.
Booklist , Emily Melton This is a real gem of a book that slowly draws the reader into a beautifully told, lyrically written story of love, life, friendship and tragedy. Miss Jane Neal kept a well-read book on her nightstand, C. Lewis' Surprised by Joy. That title is a fitting phrase for Still Life.
Toronto Star, Jack Batten A delightful and clever collection of false leads, red herrings, meditations on human nature, strange behavior and other diverting stuff. The Calgary Herald , Joanne Sasvari, This is a much darker, cleverer, funnier and, finally, more hopeful novel than even the great Dame Agatha could have penned.
It's light, witty and poignant, a thrilling debut from a new Canadian crime writer. As the last note of the chant escaped the Blessed Chapel a great silence fell, and with it came an even greater disquiet. The silence stretched on. These were men used to silence, but this seemed extreme, even to them. And still they stood in their long black robes and white tops, motionless. These were men also used to waiting. But this too seemed extreme. The less disciplined among them stole glances at the tall, slim, elderly man who had been the last to file in and would be the first to leave.
Dom Philippe kept his eyes closed. Where once this was a moment of profound peace, a private moment with his private God, when Vigils had ended and before he signaled for the Angelus, now it was simply escape. Besides, he knew what was there. What was always there. What had been there for hundreds of years before he arrived and would, God willing, be there for centuries after he was buried in the cemetery.
Two rows of men across from him, in black robes with white hoods, a simple rope tied at their waists. And beside him to his right, two more rows of men. They were facing each other across the stone floor of the chapel, like ancient battle lines. No, he told his weary mind. Just opposing points of view. Expressed in a healthy community.
Then why was he so reluctant to open his eyes? To get the day going? To signal the great bells that would ring the Angelus to the forests and birds and lakes and fish. To the angels and all the saints. In the great silence it sounded like a bomb. With an effort he continued to keep his eyes closed. He remained still, and quiet. But there was no peace anymore. Now there was only turmoil, inside and out.
He could feel it, vibrating from and between the two rows of waiting men. He could feel it vibrating within him. Dom Philippe counted to one hundred. Then opening his blue eyes, he stared directly across the chapel, to the short, round man who stood with his eyes open, his hands folded on his stomach, a small smile on his endlessly patient face. And the bells began. The perfect, round, rich toll left the bell tower and took off into the early morning darkness. It skimmed over the clear lake, the forests, the rolling hills.
To be heard by all sorts of creatures. Their day had begun. That would be ridiculous. In the background an old Beau Dommage album was playing. Beauvoir hummed quietly to the familiar tune. Felt she had to marry him. After all, who else would have him? I could hardly give you a worse gift. He reached down beside the table in the sunny kitchen. A platter of bacon and scrambled eggs with melted Brie sat on the small pine table.
The cat leapt to the ground and found a spot on the floor where the sun hit. Beauvoir lifted it into plain sight. And I got you nothing. Annie took the plunger. You are full of it, after all. She thrust the plunger forward, gently prodding him with the red rubber suction cup as though it was a rapier and she the swordsman. Where other women might have pretended the ridiculous plunger was a wand, she pretended it was a sword. Of course, Jean-Guy realized, he would never have given a toilet plunger to any other woman. As he spoke he looked at Annie. Her eyes never left him, barely blinked.
She took in every word, every gesture, every inflection. Enid, his ex-wife, had also listened. But there was always an edge of desperation about it, a demand. As though he owed her. As though she was dying and he was the medicine. Enid left him drained, and yet still feeling inadequate. But Annie was gentler. Like her father, she listened carefully and quietly. With Enid he never talked about his work, and she never asked. With Annie he told her everything. He told her what they found, how they felt, and who they arrested.
Beauvoir nodded and chewed and saw the Chief Inspector in the dim cabin. So as the two homicide investigators deftly searched, Chief Inspector Gamache had told Beauvoir about the bathmat. And somehow deciding a bathmat was the perfect hostess gift. Her mother never tired of asking either. Her father, on the other hand, decided I was an imbecile and never mentioned it again.
When they died we found the bathmat in their linen closet, still in its plastic wrapping, with the card attached. Beauvoir stopped talking and looked across at Annie.
She smelled fresh and clean. Like a citron grove in the warm sunshine. She wore warm slippers and loose, comfortable clothing. Annie was aware of fashion, and happy to be fashionable. But happier to be comfortable. She was not slim. She was not a stunning beauty. But Annie knew something most people never learn. She knew how great it was to be alive.
It had taken him almost forty years, but Jean-Guy Beauvoir finally understood it too. And knew now there was no greater beauty. Annie was approaching thirty now. Had made him part of the team, and eventually, over the years, part of the family. Though even the Chief Inspector had no idea how much a part of the family Beauvoir had become. She held up the plunger, with its cheery red bow.
In a home that smelled of fresh citron and coffee. And had a cat curled around the sunshine. But hearing it now, it just seemed natural. As though this was always the plan.
To grow old together. Beauvoir did the math. He was ten years older than her, and would almost certainly die first. But there was something troubling him. Annie grew quiet, and picked at her croissant. He could never stop them, but it would be a disaster. The Chief and Madame Gamache will be happy. But he wanted to be sure. It was in his nature. He collected facts for a living, and this uncertainty was taking its toll. It was the only shadow in a life suddenly, unexpectedly luminous.
But in his heart it felt like a betrayal. She leaned toward him, her elbows and forearms resting on the croissant flakes on the pine table, and took his hand. She held it warm in hers. My father would be so happy. Seeing the look on his face she laughed and squeezed his hand. They think of you as family, you know. She just held his hand and looked into his eyes.
Dad spends his life looking for clues, piecing things together. Too close, I guess. One of the first lessons he teaches new recruits. Not the robust peal of the landline, but the cheerful, invasive trill of a cell. He ran to the bedroom and grabbed it off the nightstand. No number was displayed, just a word. He almost hit the small green phone icon, then hesitated. It managed to be both relaxed and authoritative. An invitation to dinner. A query about staffing or a case going to trial. This was a call to arms. A call to action. A call that marked something dreadful had happened.
And even danced a little. Not with joy at the knowledge of a terrible and premature death. But knowing he and the Chief and others would be on the trail again. Jean-Guy Beauvoir loved his job. But now, for the first time, he looked into the kitchen, and saw Annie standing in the doorway. And he realized, with surprise, that he now loved something more.
And just the two of us for now. Just to organize the Scene of Crime team and leave? Hope you remember how to do it. All the way from downtown? Beauvoir felt the world stop for a moment. And he did, placing calls, issuing orders, organizing. Then he threw a few clothes into an overnight bag. Even for a woman who cherished reality, this was far too real. She laughed, and he was glad. At the door he stopped and lowered his case to the ground. Once he was gone and she could no longer see the back of his car, Annie Gamache closed the door and held her hand to her chest.
She wondered if this was how her mother had felt, for all those years. How her mother felt at that very moment. Was she too leaning against the door, having watched her heart leave? Having let it go. Then Annie walked over to the bookcases lining her living room. After a few minutes she found what she was looking for.
Louise Penny Author - Official site
She and Jean-Guy would present them with their own white bibles, with their names and baptism dates inscribed. She looked at the thick first page. Sure enough, there was her name. But instead of a cross underneath her name her parents had drawn two little hearts. Copyright by Three Pines Creations, Inc. She could see shadows, shapes, like wraiths moving back and forth, back and forth across the frosted glass. Distorted, but still human. Still the dead one lay moaning. The words had been going through her head all day, appearing and disappearing.
A poem, half remembered. Words floating to the surface, then going under. The body of the poem beyond her grasp. The blurred figures at the far end of the long corridor seemed almost liquid, or smoke. The end of the journey. How often had they come to the MAC to marvel at some new exhibition?
To support a friend, a fellow artist? Or to just sit quietly in the middle of the sleek gallery, in the middle of a weekday, when the rest of the city was at work? Art was their work. But it was more than that. It had to be. Otherwise, why put up with all those years of solitude? Of silence from a baffled and even bemused art world? She and Peter had worked away, every day, in their small studios in their small village, leading their tiny lives.
But still yearning for more. Clara took a few more steps down the long, long, white marble hallway. Her first dream as a child, her last dream that morning, almost fifty years later, was at the far end of the hard white hallway. He was by far the more successful artist, with his exquisite studies of life in close-up. So detailed, and so close that a piece of the natural world appeared distorted and abstract.
Peter took what was natural and made it appear unnatural. People ate it up. It kept food on the table and the wolves, while constantly circling their little home in Three Pines, were kept from the door. Thanks to Peter and his art. Clara glanced at him walking slightly ahead of her, a smile on his handsome face. She knew most people, on first meeting them, never took her for his wife.
Instead they assumed some slim executive with a white wine in her elegant hand was his mate. An example of natural selection. Of like moving to like. The distinguished artist with the head of graying hair and noble features could not possibly have chosen the woman with the beer in her boxing glove hands. And the studio full of sculptures made out of old tractor parts and paintings of cabbages with wings. Peter Morrow could not have chosen her. That would have been unnatural. Clara would have smiled had she not been fairly certain she was about to throw up.
Oh, no no no, she thought again as she watched Peter march purposefully toward the closed door and the art wraiths waiting to pass judgment. But mostly she wanted to turn and flee, to hide. To stumble back down the long, long, light-filled, art-filled, marble-filled hallway. And this is where it led. She walked down this corridor. Into the waiting arms of an adoring world. There was no terror. No creatures glimpsed through the frosted glass, waiting to devour her.
Diminish her, and her creations. Had not told her something else might be waiting. Oh, no no no, thought Clara. What was the rest of the poem? Why did it elude her? Now, within feet of the end of her journey all she wanted to do was run away home to Three Pines. To open the wooden gate. To race up the path lined with apple trees in spring bloom. To slam their front door shut behind her. To lean against it. To press her body against it, and keep the world out. She realized she was holding her breath and wondered for how long.
To make up for it she started breathing rapidly. Peter was talking but his voice was muffled, far away. Drowned out by the shrieking in her head, and the pounding in her chest. And the noise building behind the doors. As they got closer. Clara opened her hand and dropped her purse. It fell with a plop to the floor, since it was all but empty, containing simply a breath mint and the tiny paint brush from the first paint-by-number set her grandmother had given her. Clara dropped to her knees, pretending to gather up invisible items and stuff them into her clutch.
She lowered her head, trying to catch her breath, and wondered if she was about to pass out. Clara stared from the purse on the gleaming marble floor to the man crouched across from her. He was kneeling beside her, watching, his kind eyes life preservers thrown to a drowning woman. His voice was calm. This was their own private crisis. Their own private rescue. Not missing her right away. Not noticing his wife was kneeling on the floor. Seeing his silky blond hair, and the lines only visible very close up.
More lines than a thirty-eight-year-old man should have. The dew heavy under her rubber boots. The early roses and late peonies damp and fragrant. Not once had she imagined herself collapsed on the floor. To go back to the garden. But Olivier was right. Oh, no no no. They were the only way home now. Clara laughed, and exhaled. And in that instant the body of the poem surfaced. The rest of it was revealed.
I was much too far out all my life. From far off Armand Gamache could hear the sound of children playing. He knew where it was coming from. He sometimes liked to sit there and pretend the shouts and laughter came from his young grandchildren, Florence and Zora. He imagined his son Daniel and Roslyn were in the park, watching their children.
Or he and Reine-Marie would join them. And play catch, or conkers. But mostly he just listened to the shouts and shrieks and laughter of neighborhood children. His wife, Reine-Marie, sat across from him on their balcony. She too had a cold beer on this unexpectedly warm day in mid-June. But her copy of La Presse was folded on the table and she stared into the distance. He was silent for a moment, watching her.
Her hair was quite gray now, but then, so was his. Like him, she was in her mid-fifties. And this was what a couple of that age looked like. If they were lucky. No one would mistake them for that. But that too would be a mistake. Books were everywhere in their large apartment. Placed in orderly bookcases. Just about every table had at least one book on it, and often several magazines.
And the weekend newspapers were scattered on the coffee table in the living room, in front of the fireplace. The shelves were packed with case histories, with books on medicine and forensics, with tomes on Napoleonic and common law, fingerprinting, genetic coding, wounds and weapons.
But still, even among the death, space was made for books on philosophy and poetry. But he could never shake the suspicion he had gotten very, very lucky. Unless it was the extraordinary stroke of luck that she should also love him. Now she turned her blue eyes on him. It was five past five. Their son-in-law was half an hour late and Gamache glanced inside their apartment. He could just barely make out his daughter Annie sitting in the living room reading, and across from her was his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir.
Jean Guy and Annie were ignoring each other. Gamache nodded and picked up the magazine, then he lowered it slowly. Reine-Marie hesitated then smiled. Armand raised his brow in surprise. And now he was nearing forty and she was nearing thirty. Still awkward and gawky and bossy. She looked as though she was genuinely glad to see them. As though they were important. Fought through the pain and the dark to that foreign but gentle touch. That bird-like grip he would not have come back for. But this hand was large, and certain, and warm. And it invited him back. And then he knew why.
Because she had nowhere else to be. No other hospital bed to sit beside. Because her father was dead. Killed by a gunman in the abandoned factory.
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Beauvoir had seen it happen. Seen him lifted off his feet and fall to the concrete floor. And now Annie Gamache was holding his hand in the hospital, because the hand she really wanted to be holding was gone. Jean Guy Beauvoir had pried his eyes open and seen Annie Gamache looking so sad. And his heart broke. Then he saw something else. No one had ever looked at him that way. With unconcealed and unbound joy. It was slightly citrony. Annie smelled like a lemon grove in summer.
There were many humiliations waiting for him in the hospital.