The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

louisepennynewIt is always a treat revisiting the serene village of Three Pines, which serves as the backdrop for Louise Penny’s 11th exceptional mystery, The Nature of the Beast

Armand Gamache, retired head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, is at a crossroads in his life. He is enjoying a quiet existence with his wife Reine-Marie and their good friends in Three Pines. Even though he considers himself retired, job offers keep coming in, including one that would make him Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec. And when a boy is killed, he can’t help but be drawn into the murder investigation.

Gamache and the other villagers have become used to 9-year-old Laurent Lepage’s natureofthebeastfantastic stories about things he’s seen in the woods. When Laurent comes back saying he discovered a gun as big as a house, they all consider it just another tall tale. Laurent begs Gamache to come see the enormous weapon, which has a winged monster on it. Gamache gently declines, knowing the boy is spinning another fantasy. A few hours later Laurent goes missing and his body is found the next day.

Gamache feels guilty he had ignored the boy’s story and suspects that Laurent’s death was not an accident. His two trusted colleagues, Isabelle Lacoste and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, naturally consult with their former boss about the case. Their investigation reveals something truly evil hiding in the woods of Three Pines. Penny keeps the story going with wonderful plot twists that will keep readers guessing until the end. Her story is loosely based on historic events in Quebec, which makes it even more mind-blowing.

Penny is my favorite mystery author. Every book draws me into her world of Quebec, with her incredible ability to make me feel like I am there. I have come to love the regular characters, from Ruth, the brilliant but foul-mouthed poet, to Gabri and Olivier, who run the bistro and bed and breakfast. They are all old friends, and I can’t wait to revisit them in the next book. If you want to read the series, I recommend reading them order, starting with Still Life.

Will Gamache be happy if he stays in Three Pines or will he be drawn back to the Sûreté? Alas, we will have to wait a year to find out.

Jo Hansen, jhansen@cooklib.org

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