(35. - 32.) The Nature of the
Beast by Louise Penny – Armand Gamache is one of
my favourite sleuths. There is no fictional place I like to visit more than
Three Pines, Quebec. Thus it is with regret I am disappointed with the 11th
book in the series. I have found flaws in some of the earlier books but never
dissatisfaction. The Nature of the Beast
left me unsettled. Over this post and my next post I will discuss the plot and
the reasons for my unhappiness.
I do not believe the posts have spoilers but, to explain
my concerns, there will be more information than some readers would want to see
before reading the book.
The story opens in Three Pines with 9 year old Laurent
Lepage engaging and disrupting the community with his wild stories. With his
long stick serving as his lance / sword / gun he charges into town on his bike
and relates to the residents startling stories.
On a fine fall afternoon with “moss and leaves and twigs
in his hair” he runs into the bistro knocking glasses off a table in his
enthusiasm. He desperately wants Gamache to accompany him to the forest to see
what he has found in the woods. He excitedly describes it as a humongous gun:
big as this building. And there was a monster on it. With
Because Laurent has exaggerated so often his discoveries
Gamache humours him in the way of adults and takes him home instead of to the
Laurent had disrupted a discussion with the leaders of
the local theatre group, Antoinette Lemaitre and Brian Fitzpatrick, who have
found a brilliant new play. Antoinette, trying to build a sense of mystery to hype
the play, has not released the author’s name. Brian, unable to hold back,
blurts out that it was written by John Fleming.
When Gamache recalls that Fleming is one of Canada’s
worst serial killers he is upset that the group would put on a play by Fleming.
Gamache is adamant that it is wrong to produce a play by a mass killer and that
sometimes censorship is justified. He discusses the play’s connection with its
has everything to do with him,”……”If John Fleming created it, it’s grotesque.
It can’t help but be. Maybe not obviously so, but he’s in every word, every
action of the characters. The creator and the created are one.”
If the story had followed through on the issue of how a
work of art, here a play, should be considered when its creator is evil there
would have been a plot line worthy of Penny. Instead, the question is barely
addressed through the book.
Everyone in Three Pines is shaken when Laurent is found
dead just off the road to his farm home. It appears he has fallen from his
Unconvinced Gamache pushes for a further search as
Laurent’s stick is missing. To the shock of everyone searchers find the stick
near a massive gun, the firing chamber is tall enough to stand up in, hidden in
the forest just outside the village under vines and camouflage netting. It has
clearly been there for decades. At the base of the gun is an etching of a
monster. Laurent had been telling the truth.
My disappointment started with the assertion that the gun
was unknown to the village. It is the third time Penny has created a “secret”
in the forest. In The Brutal Telling
it was a hermit and his shack a 20 minute walk from Three Pines. In A Beautiful Mystery it was a monastery
with priests and brothers that was unknown though the monks interacted with
their neighbours. Now a giant gun was supposedly secretly built and hidden in
the forest half a kilometer from the village.
If anything rural people are more curious than city
people. They know exactly what is happening around them. The huge secret gun
defies credibility as much as the hidden underground casino and rooms in A Door in the River by Inger Ash Wolfe
Had Penny written that the gun, long abandoned, had been
forgotten over the decades I would have believed the story.
Penny does skillfully bring Canadian arms designer and
seller, Gerald Bull, into the plot as the creator of the gun. In real life Bull
gained notoriety in the late 1980’s for his contacts with Saddam Hussein as
Bull sought a country willing to build his supergun that would shoot a
projectile into the upper atmosphere high enough to orbit.
Penny also does well in outlining the challenge for the Sûreté
officers investigating the crime. Gamache, their former superior, is present
and a valuable resource but he is no longer a member of the force. He wields no
official authority but his presence commands respect.
What a shame, Bill, that this one was a disappointment to you. As you know, I'm a Penny fan, myself, so I'm disappointed to hear that this novel makes use of such stretches of credibility. And that is an interesting question about putting on the play. It would have been interesting had that been explored. I think I'll wait for your next post before I decide how quickly to plan to read this one...ReplyDelete
Margot: Thanks for the comment. I will look forward to your thoughts when I put up the rest of my review which goes into other concerns I had with the book.Delete
You have made a mistake on "A Beautiful Mystery". It was very clearly outlined in the book that the Monastery was NOT near Three Pines. In fact, Armand and Beauvoir had to take a bush plane to get to it...ReplyDelete
Anon: I never said the monastery was near Three Pines but I understand on re-reading the paragraph why you might conclude that is where I thought the monastery was located. I do believe Penny locating the monastery far from any community made it less credible.Delete