A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny – Audio Edition

Posted by on Jan 20, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Audio, Book Review, Louise Penny | 6 comments

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny narrated by Robert Bathurst
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny narrated by Robert Bathurst

Genre: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Series: #12 in the Armand Gamache (Three Pines) series
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Publication Date: 2016
Length: 13 hours, 32 minutes
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.
Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

My Thoughts:
I didn’t enjoy the previous book in the series quite as much as I had enjoyed the others. It was still good but just not quite what I had come to expect from Louise Penny. I am happy to say that with this twelfth book she is back up to the standard of the earlier books.

In fact, I thought this was one of the better books in the series.

There were several mysteries going on. Who killed the professor? Why did Gamache do some of the things he did? What is the story behind the map found in the bistro? And is there a connection between Armand Gamache and Amelia Choquet?

Penny doles out the clues in bits and pieces throughout the book and the final few chapters were quite satisfying.

I was happy to see parts of the story take place in Three Pines so the regular recurring characters were involved.

Robert Bathurst had big shoes to fill when the narrator of the first ten books passed away. This is the second one I’ve listened to him narrate. He does a great job of voice characterizations. I always knew who was speaking before it was mentioned.

These books can work as standalones but you’ll understand the ongoing stories if you start from the beginning with Still Life.

Rating
4.5 stars 4.5/5 for the book

4 stars 4/5 for the narration

Read More

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, Audio Edition

Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 in 2016, 3.5 stars, Audio, Book Review, Louise Penny | 2 comments

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny narrated by Robert Bathurst

Genre: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Series: #11 in the Armand Gamache (Three Pines) series
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Publication Date: 2015
Length: 12 hours, 42 minutes
Narrated by: Robert Bathurst
Source: Purchased

The Book
From the publisher:

Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions to walking trees to winged beasts in the woods to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.
But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.
And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.
And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.
A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.
Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.

My Thoughts
This series has long been one of my favorite series to experience via audiobook. The combination of Louise Penny’s characters and stories with Ralph Cosham was a match that worked wonderfully. Even though the books are not told in the first person Ralph Cosham became the voice of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to me.

Before this book was published, Ralph Cosham passed away. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to listen to this book narrated by someone else. When Robert Bathurst was announced as the new narrator I decided to give it a try. I listened to the sample clip before purchasing the book and figured I’d give him a chance. Then I let the book sit unheard on my iPod for months.

After finishing my last audiobook I decided it was time and started this one. I spent the first quarter of the book being angry at Ralph Cosham for having the utter gall to up and die on us while Louise Penny was still writing the series. Then I spent almost that much being irritated at Robert Bathurst for not being Ralph Cosham.

Then suddenly I was too wrapped up in the story to notice that Bathurst was not Cosham and somehow his voice worked. He’s still not the voice of Armand Gamache to me but since the books aren’t told in the first person I can accept him as the narrator. He’s good. He’s not great and probably needs to develop his own voices for the recurring characters but I expect that will improve as he narrates more of the series.

The story is interesting but I’m not sure I’d call it plausible even though at least part of it is based on a real person. It had elements of the things I love about this series but it also had elements that really just didn’t work as well. It felt like she tried to put too many things into one story.

Rating
3.5 stars3.5/5 for the book

3.5 stars3.5/5 for the narration mostly because I’m still a little annoyed that he’s not Ralph Cosham

Read More

Audiobook – The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 in 2014, 4.5 stars, Audio, Book Review, Louise Penny | 6 comments

6181b-thelongwayhome

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Genre: Mystery
Series: #1 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Publication Date: 2013
Length: 12 hours, 8 minutes
Read by: Ralph Cosham
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
Now retired, Armand Gamache is drawn into an investigation when his friend Clara asks him to help her find her husband.

Why I Read It:
This has become one of my favorite series and I can’t stop now.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of the Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. But his peace is interrupted when his friend and neighbour, Clara Morrow tells him her artist husband Peter has failed to come home. She asks for Gamache’s help in finding him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamche feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. But he must.

 

Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Quebec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes to an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

My Thoughts:
In the previous book in the series Louise Penny wrapped up many long term story lines. This one works very well as an entry to the series for new readers who don’t want to go back and read the first 9 books.

Gamache’s role has changed with his retirement and that’s reinforced by the way he lets Clara determine how they will proceed to search for Peter. The amusing part is how Gamache’s former associate Jean-Guy Beauvior handles this (badly). Jean-Guy has been through a lot throughout this series and he’s always been one of my favorite characters.

Peter Morrow, however, has always been one of my least favorites. When I realized that he would figure heavily in the story in this one I was disappointed but I should have trusted Louise Penny. She managed to make this book about Peter Morrow without actually having Peter present in the action for most of the book.

I won’t say more about the story but I will say that I loved this book. If you haven’t read or listened to any of this series you should. If you don’t want to go back to the beginning and read the first nine this one will make an excellent starting point for new readers.

The audio format is the only way I have experienced this series and to me Ralph Cosham is the voice of Armand Gamache. His narration has been wonderful to listen to for all 10 books of the series.

Sadly between finishing this book and writing this review I learned that the wonderful Ralph Cosham passed away this week. On Wednesday of this week Louise Penny posted the sad news on her Facebook page. It was particularly sad to hear this while I still had his voice echoing around in my brain. It’s far to early to speculate about who will take over the audion narration duties of this series but no matter who is chosen he (or she) will have big shoes to fill. I will miss having Ralph Cosham read to me.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for the book

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for the narration

Read More

Audiobook – How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in 2014, 4.5 stars, Audio, Book Review, Louise Penny | 2 comments

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

Genre: Mystery
Series: #9 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Publication Date: 2013
Length: 15 hours, 2 minutes
Read by: Ralph Cosham
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
A missing woman with connections to the village of Three Pines brings Armand Gamache back to town while at the same time he’s fighting to keep his job and his department intact.

Why I Read It:
This has become one of my favorite series and I can’t stop now.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Christmas is approaching, and in Québec it’s a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna’s reluctance to reveal her friend’s name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.

As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?

My Thoughts:
As always with this series, I thoroughly the audio version narrated by Ralph Cosham. Cosham’s voice is Armand Gamache to me even though the books are not written in first person.

This one feels like Louise Penny is wrapping up several long brewing story lines from the series. There is a new mystery regarding the death of Myrna’s longtime friend but that’s only part of this book.

Along with this is the continuation of Gamache’s years long battle of wills and wits with the corrupt leadership of the Sureté du Quebec. They’re pushing him to retire and he’s still trying to prove corruption in high levels. The threads go back years and Gamache’s former protégé Beauvior has become a puppet of the wrong side of this intra-organizational war.

Penny weaves the mystery of the death (and identity) of Constance in and around the building tension of Gamache’s efforts to determine exactly what his boss has been plotting. In fact, it’s really a minor plot compared to the wrapping up of many stories that have been building over the previous 8 books in the series. There were several times while listening to this that I mentally applauded the author for surprising me with a plot twist.

Once again Ralph Cosham’s narration was excellent. I can’t imagine reading these in print after experiencing them in audio. This continues to be one of my favorite all time series.

I have already started listening to the next one (The Long Way Home) because after the buildup of tension and final chapters of this one I just had to see where Armand Gamache’s story would go next.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for the book

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for the narration

Read More

Audiobook – The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

Posted by on Oct 26, 2012 in 2012, 4 stars, Audio, Book Review, Louise Penny | 6 comments

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

Genre: Mystery
Series: #8 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Publication Date: 2012
Length: 13 hours, 35 minutes
Read by: Ralph Cosham
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Once again Louise Penny takes a couple of the regular cast to a new location and this time it’s a cloistered monastery where a monk has been murdered.

Why I Read It:
This is one of my favorite audio series. I love Ralph Cosham’s narration and will wait for the audio rather than read the print.

The Book:
Once again Louise Penny takes the action and a couple of characters away from the usual settings village of The Pines and Montreal. When a series is set in a relatively small environment like a small Canadian village it’s tough to keep things going without having the body count become ridiculous. Penny has managed this by occasionally taking the story elsewhere. The trade off is that it’s not practical to have too many of the regular cast of characters relocate along with the story.

The timing of separating Gamache and Beauvoir together works well at this point in the ongoing plots of the series. For many reasons their personal and professional relationships are at a crucial juncture. Having them isolated together in a restricted environment works well for their story. The surprise arrival of the Chief Superintendant only adds to the tension already in place.

I love the little gems that Penny tosses into the narrative. I catch myself often rewinding to re-hear a sentence or paragraph here or there along the way.

That was what Gamache and his team did. They sieved for that often tiny event. A word. A look. A slight. That final wound that released the monster. Something had made a man into a murderer. Had made a monk into a murderer, surely a longer journey than most.

He and the abbot had been discussing the garden. He wanted to bring the interview back to a more conversational tone. It was like fishing. Reel in, let go. Reel in, let go. Give the suspect the impression of freedom. That they were off the hook. Then reel them in again.
It was exhausting. For everyone. But mostly, Gamache knew, for whoever was on the hook and writhing.

Emotions, Gamache knew from years of kneeling beside corpses, were what made the body. Not a gun, not a knife. Not a length of old iron.
Some emotion had slipped the leash and killed Frere Mathieu. And to find his killer, Armand Gamache needed to use his logic, but also, his own feelings.

Ralph Cosham is excellent as the narrator for this series. In my mind his voice is the voice of Armand Gamache. His narration has a lot to do with why this series is a favorite of mine.

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the book

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for the narration

SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

Read More

The Hangman by Louise Penny

Posted by on Apr 10, 2012 in 2012, 4 stars, Book Review, Louise Penny | 3 comments

The Hangman by Louise Penny
The Hangman by Louise Penny

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Grass Roots Press
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 87
Source: Library

The Short Version:
A simple but still enjoyable Inspector Gamache story written for a program promoting adult literacy.

Why I Read It:
I would probably read a bus schedule if Louise Penny wrote it. Once I found out this novella existed I had to see if my library could get it for me.

The Book:
This is a simply written story written for a specific purpose. As noted on Louise Penny’s website:

It’s written as part of a programme called GoodReads Canada, which was created by national literacy organizations to publish books aimed at emerging adult readers. So, THE HANGMAN is written at a grade 3 level, for adults. Very clear, very simple. Not really the most complex plot or style, for obvious reasons.

What is it about? From the publisher:

On a cold November morning, a jogger runs through the woods in the peaceful Quebec village of Three Pines. On his run, he finds a dead man hanging from a tree. The dead man was a guest at the local Inn and Spa. He might have been looking for peace and quiet, but something else found him. Something horrible. Did the man take his own life? Or was he murdered? Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the crime scene. As Gamache follows the trail of clues, he opens a door into the past. And he learns the true reason why the man came to Three Pines.

My Thoughts:
I knew before I got my hands on it that this would be a quick read and it made for an enjoyable lunchtime story. When I found out it existed I decided that if my library could get it I would read it but I wouldn’t pursue it any further than that. Well my library is outstanding and I had an interlibrary loan copy in my hand within a matter of days.

Yes it’s a very simply written story but it’s still got the charm and interest of any other Inspector Gamache book. Even in the simpler language it’s a well done mystery. It’s actually a good introduction to a handful of characters from the series and gives a taste of what the rest of the books are like.

Inspector Gamache is just as charming at a simpler reading level but I fully admit to a literary crush on him.

I love the reason for the story’s existence. It’s tough to get non reading adults into the habit without adult stories. I hope the program was successful and that folks who read this story were inspired to read more of the series. For the reason the story was written I think it’s well done and my rating is based on that. It’s simplified language and writing but not and oversimplified story.

Check with your library. If you’re a fan of the series it’s a fun read if you can get your hands on a copy.

4 stars Rating 4/5

Read More