Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Bury Your Dead

Summary: It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society— where an obsessive historian’s quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?

Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smoldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. “It doesn't make sense,” Olivier’s partner writes every day. “He didn't do it, you know.” As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead. -- Minotaur

I have heard so many wonderful things about mystery writer Louise Penny. I can't really explain why it's taken me so long to get around to reading one of her novels --  maybe I can use the excuse that there are just so many books and so little time! But I am so excited to say that I finally read a Louise Penny novel -- BURY YOUR DEAD. I can see what all the fuss was about -- it has received starred reviews everywhere. BURY YOUR DEAD was terrific!

I think the real reason that I hadn't read any of Ms. Penny's books is that I was hesitant to start yet another series. And truth be told, I am not fond of reading a series out-of-order. I finally decided that I was most likely never going to get around to reading all of the prior books, and I just took the plunge with BURY YOUR DEAD. And I'm so glad I did because I absolutely loved the characters and Ms. Penny's writing style.

I feel the need to be honest with you about BURY YOUR DEAD. I did really appreciate the story and technically the novel can stand alone; however, I really wish I had read some of the prior books so I had a better understanding of the characters and their actions. And, I especially wish that I had read THE BRUTAL TELLING first since BURY YOUR DEAD ties directly into the crime that was solved in prior novel. I think Ms. Penny did an excellent job of catching up the reader with all of the critical issues, but I still think I would have benefited from reading THE BRUTAL TELLING. (Ironically enough, I have THE BRUTAL TELLING sitting on my bookshelves!)

I can't rave enough about how well constructed BURY YOUR DEAD was. I was blown away by Ms. Penny's writing style, character development and storytelling abilities. Make no mistake about it -- I am now a big fan of hers and I intend to go back and read her other novels. I was seriously impressed with how she wove together three different stories in this one novel, but I was even more impressed with her character development. I absolutely adored Inspector Gamache and I found him to be such a complex character. I can easily see him becoming one of my favorite recurring detective characters.

I also appreciated how Ms. Penny told this story. BURY YOUR DEAD could have been rather complicated in that there were three different storylines going on at the same time. I was extremely impressed with how the different stories were woven together -- going back and forth between the present and the past -- and how all of the stories unfolded in unison. While it could have been difficult for the reader to follow everything, the transitions were so incredibly well done and the presentation was so clean that I had absolutely no problem understanding all of the events in the novel. Now that is really saying something about the writing skills of Ms. Penny!

Another added bonus to BURY YOUR DEAD was that I actually learned a thing or two about history. Part of the novel took place in Quebec City and one of the storylines dealt with discovering the burial site of Samuel de Champlain, the founded of Quebec. I don't claim to know much about the history of the United States, but I know next to nothing about Canada's history. Not only did a discover a few things about Champlain, but I also gathered some insight into the tensions between the French and the English in Quebec City. I found it all so interesting, and the differences in the cultures definitely caused me to think.

Normally, I don't recommend mystery style books for book clubs; however, I am making an exception with BURY YOUR DEAD. This book would be an excellent pick for book clubs, especially if your group is already familiar with the series and the characters. The storylines and the characters are incredibly interesting and complicated, and I think there is a great deal to discuss. I was excited to find that there is a reading guide available, and it delves into some thought-provoking questions. Some of the topics you might want to explore include the politics of Quebec, the history of Quebec, community, forgiveness, acceptance, mentoring relationships, and closure.

If you are already a fan of Louise Penny's, then BURY YOUR DEAD is a must-read book. And if you are like me and new to this author, then I highly recommend reading this series!

Thanks to the publisher and Get Red PR for providing a review copy of this novel.


Beth F said...

I have always wanted to read Louise Penny. I'm so glad she held up to her reputation. However, I'm going to start with the first one.

bermudaonion said...

Everyone seems to love Penny's work, but I've hesitated to jump into the middle of the series too. Bury Your Dead is actually my local indie bookstores pick of the month for October, so I'm thinking I should give it a try.

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I just recently started this series and have this one for review. I agree, this author has some talent!

marthalama said...

Where have I been? I have never heard of Louise Penny and she sounds like an author I should know. Thank you for the heads up about it being part of a series. I tend to be a little OCD as far as reading series in order. I though I too am hesitant about start another series.(Gosh, I have a lot) This does sound well worth add to my TBR list.

carolsnotebook said...

I read the first in the series and loved it. I have the second and The Brutal Telling on my shelves but haven't gotten to them yet. I'll definitely read them before this one, but I'm glad this one's so good.

Sandy Nawrot said...

No, no, no. Can't jump in the middle of a series! But from what I've heard Penny is worth the investment. Who knows when I will ever get to it, but it is officially on my project list.

holdenj said...

One of my favorite books this year.