Should you happen to visit the fictional Three Pines, a small, isolated village in Canada’s Quebec province about an hour’s drive south of Montreal, you will at first be utterly charmed.
Three Pines is that Norman Rockwell painting with deep snowdrifts outside and families gathered around groaning tables within. It is cozy wood fires, ice-skating, and hot chocolate in winter. It is cute businesses and tidy homes surrounding a quaint village green.
People drive through Three Pines and immediately want to move there. That is, in fact, exactly how many residents ended up there…because it’s just so perfect.
Well, not quite. The biggest problem with Three Pines is that people keep turning up dead of unnatural causes. And that is where Chief Inspector Gamache, head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec comes into the stories. He finds himself summoned to Three Pines again and again to the point that he becomes friends with the villagers as he solves their mysteries. He gets into their minds, and more importantly their hearts.
Author Louise Penny’s world is at once an idyll and a slice of noir. The heart of the village and its inhabitants is revealed, a little bit at a time, novel after novel. And the villagers have secrets–lots of them. They have resentments. Most important, they have fears. And as Inspector Gamache tells his officers, fear is at the root of every murder. Go into the past far enough and you will find it and killer will be obvious.
Three Pines truly is a magical world. Penny has explored the human heart (starting with Still Life) in seven novels to date, with the eighth in the series, The Beautiful Mystery, due out August 28. Page by page, layer by layer, Gamache dissects his subjects until they have no secrets left.
It can make for truly uncomfortable reading. But once this author has you, you cannot quit because her fictional journeys go to the heart of the human condition. Through Gamache, Penny reveals her truths not only with with excoriating detail but also with kindness, empathy, and an abiding respect for all creatures.