About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (Part II)

In my last post I started my review of The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny. For the first time in reading the Armand Gamache series I advised I was disappointed. I outlined my frustration with a huge supergun being unknown within half a kilometer of Three Pines. This post completes the review and further explains my frustration.

Ultimately, the murder investigation includes a desperate search for the plans to the Supergun.

The hunt takes the last section of the book from a murder mystery to a thriller. The shift is my greatest concern with the book. The thriller does not work. Gamache and Three Pines do not fit a thriller. Gamache is not a super action hero. Isolated and peaceful Three Pines is not thriller country. The residents of the village are not thriller characters.

Worse yet Penny seeks to have the chase for the plans a race against Armageddon. It takes great skill to develop a credible weapon of mass destruction plot that convinces the reader to suspend disbelief. The plans for the Supergun are not a believable base for Armageddon.

Race against time thrillers with the fate of the world at stake can be exciting but the reader has to be convinced there is a real risk. In The Ascendant by Drew Chapman there is technological warfare between China and the United States accompanied by the respective militaries encroaching on the air and sea space of the other nation. Plans that are three decades old for a Supergun that has never even been tested do not create cataclysmic fear in the reader.

There was no rising tension with regard to the plans as I could not believe finding the plans before the deadline really mattered. My disbelief was heightened rather than suspended.

Dropping the thriller into the mystery also resulted in two endings. There is the world to be saved by the deadline and murders to be solved. The solutions to each are plausible and Penny connects them but I did not find the thriller and mystery fitted well together. 

I understand authors who do not want their plots to become purely formula but going to thriller mode with thoughtful characters is not a good route. I lamented the Elvis Cole stories shifting to thrillers. More recently I have felt uneasy about the course of the Longmire mysteries of Craig Johnson.

If Penny wants to write thrillers I would suggest a new lead character and a different setting. Let Gamache and Three Pines remain in thoughtful mysteries focused on characters, setting and the world of the arts.

I appreciate the impetus to make the Supergun the focal point of the story. It is a dramatic object. Unfortunately, it was not done in a credible way.

In real life that was a smaller version of the Supergun actually built in Quebec's Eastern Townships near the fictional Three Pines. I will discuss it in my next post.

The Nature of the Beast went astray on the implausible secret Supergun and becoming a thriller. I hope the 12th in the series will be a real mystery.

Three Pines - Fictional Location) Penny, Louise – (2005) - Still Life; (2006) - Dead Cold (Tied for 3rd Best fiction of 2006); (2007) - The Cruelest Month; (2009) - The Murder Stone (Tied for 4th Best fiction of 2009); (2010) - The Brutal Telling; (2011) - Bury Your Dead (Best Fiction of 2011); (2011) - A Trick of the Light; (2012) - The Beautiful Mystery (Part I) and The Beautiful Mystery (Part II); (2013) - "P" is for Louise Penny - Movie Producer and Review of the Movie Still Life; (2013) - How the Light Gets In and Comparing with The Gifted; (2014) - The Long Way Home; (2014) - The Armand Gamache Series after 10 Mysteries - Part I and Part II; (2015) - The Nature of the Beast (Part I)    


  1. I couldn't possibly agree with you more, Bill. Three Pines is not a 'thriller' setting, and Gamache is not a 'thriller' sort of protagonist. I can completely see why the last part of the novel frustrated you on that level. And I'm not quite sure I like the whole idea of the Supergun, anyway. It just doesn't fit. It's a shame, too, as I think Penny's novels are, overall, so excellent. What a disappointment! I hope she returns to the sort of thoughtful, character-driven crime novel she does so well, at least for this series.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Thrillers are best on their own not as part of a mystery.