The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny; 2015
I had seen The Nature of the Beast displayed for a long time, and I finally picked it up on a whim a few weeks ago, not realizing it was part of series. Although it was the 11th book in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, I felt like I had more than enough background information to keep up with the story. So, I do think it’s possible to leap right in, but there were moments where I did feel that I was missing important backstory/past character development.
It’s difficult to write about The Nature of the Beast without giving too much away, so I’ll give a sweeping overview. The Nature of the Beast is set in Three Pines, a small, remote village in Quebec, where Gamache has retired and lives with his wife Reine Marie. There are two parallel mysteries: one, the murder of a young boy with an active imagination, the other, a giant gun in the forest of Three Pines.
I was very impressed by Penny’s writing. I think that very often mysteries and detective stories are not very well written. But Penny does not sacrifice language for plot. She expertly crafts a tightly woven mystery. It was also more than just a mystery – it asked the question of whether a work of art should be judged by the actions of is creator. In terms of crime, this novel was more low key. The focus is less on murder, and more about the giant gun that was discovered. I admittedly lost interest in the gun plotline after a while. It was as much a mystery of what had happened in the past as a mystery of the present. In the end, everything came together very neatly – through logic and careful reasoning, not through a dramatic struggle with the killer.
John Flemming’s character was my favorite aspect of The Nature of the Beast. I won’t say more about Flemming since it would give away certain parts of the book, but I can say that he’s a super sinister, very creepy guy. I do wonder if he was in one of the earlier books in the series, because Armand has a history with him. There was also a suggestion that he would resurface later in future books.
I can tell that Penny has put a lot of effort into character development throughout the series, and I’m very eager to go back and read this series from the beginning.