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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Unhappiness with Glass Houses by Louise Penny

In my previous post I set out what I liked about Glass Houses, this year’s addition to the Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny. I enjoyed the book, especially the presence of the cobrador as a conscience. At the same time I was unhappy with other aspects of the book. To discuss those qualms will mean at least significant disclosure and possibly spoilers in this post.

Louise returns to a theme she has explored in earlier books. Through several books there was an ongoing secondary plot involving vast corruption within the top ranks of the Surete that Gamache was personally battling. I did not find that conspiracy convincing and thought it a distraction. I was glad when it ended in How the Light Gets In.

The plot line in Glass Houses of a great strike against drug traffickers secretly prepared and led by Gamache featuring grand deceptions inside the Surete defied credibility. Unfortunately, we all know there is no single police operation that can devastate drug traffickers. The war on drugs of the U.S. and Mexico in which most of the leaders of Mexico’s cartels have killed or captured has not dramatically decreased the flow of illicit drugs.

I thought Penny’s efforts to graft a thriller plot line on to the murder mystery worked no better here than the apocalyptic plot involving a secret gun in The Nature of the Beast.

While Penny has reduced Gamache’s role from saving the world to saving Quebec I have been distressed in both books as Gamache was never a character to rescue the world or Quebec from doom.

In the secondary plot of Glass Houses she places Gamache in the even more implausible role of an action hero. There is a Hollywood movie scene starring Gamache in a violent confrontation.

Gamache as a man of action is credible to me but not participating in a bloody fire fight.

Gamache, as a middle aged man, is ill cast in the role of action hero. His advancing years make such actions implausible. It is the problem faced by aging James Bond’s through the 007 movies.

His personality, rather reserved even formal, was carefully developed through the series. While it is interesting to see characters change Gamache is not an action hero.

It further defied belief that Gamache as Chief Superintendent of the Surete would be personally involved. I have feel writers putting the leaders of police forces into Hollywood action scenes are succumbing to the lure of body counts. As much drama could have been created by having him dispatch the officers and await their hopeful return.

The secretive criminal mastermind faced by Gamache was not believable in his public face through the book. It would have been much better to have created an evil genius who operates his empire with a coterie of notable hench men and women.

The Gamache series is better when it tackles individual cases and human emotions rather than extravagant thriller concepts, especially those venturing into the realm of the super hero.

There remains an area that troubled my reading and it is the trial portrayed in the book. My concerns will be explored in my third post on Glass Houses.
(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) and The Nature of the Beast (Part II); (2016) - A Great Reckoning - The Academy and Comparisons and The Map


  1. I know exactly what you mean, Bill, about grafting action plots onto mystery plots. In the case of this series, I can see exactly why you didn't think it worked. As you say, it's not just the issue implausibility (although, certainly, that's there). It's also the issue of the sort of person Gamache is, and the sorts of roles he plays in the series. Action hero in a firefight? No, I honestly don't think so...

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Armand Gamache is a great character but not a caped crusader.

  2. These sound like very reasonable complaints...

  3. I mainly agree with you, but I was happy to suspend my disbelief just appreciating being in Three Pines again in the company of some of the quirky characters that I've grown to enjoy so much.

    1. Katrina: Thanks for the comment. Each reader must establish their own boundaries on suspension of disbelief. Glass Houses exceeded my limits.

  4. While I am enjoying the book it is not clear to me what the prosecutor is getting from his open hostility to Gamache