Move over, Miss Marple. Push off, Poirot. Leave the scene, Lord Wimsey. Shuffle out, Sherlock. Armand Gamache is in town!!
I had two dear and wonderful friends recommend that I should read Louise Penny. Little do they know what they unleashed . . . I can’t stop reading mystery series once I get started. I have no will power!! Needless to say, I devoured Penny’s novel Still Life and now I’m on the wait list at the Library for book #2!
I knew that I was in good company with Penny and her characters when I read this description of Clara, one of the main characters: “She really didn’t let go of everything. Most things, yes. But some she secretly held and hugged and would visit in moments when she needed to be comforted by the unkindness of others” (pg 3).
For me, the story was interesting: Anglophone Quebec, art, and a whodunit. Yet what kept me reading was Penny’s characters. I suppose I was interested in finding out who committed the murder of community member Jane Neal (retired school teacher), but I was more interested in learning about these eccentric characters that Penny was unveiling.
Again, how could I not love this book when Penny writes about her characters in this way: “Peter was willing the water to boil so he could make tea and then all this would go away. Maybe, said his brain and his upbringing, if you make enough tea and small talk, time reverses and all bad things are undone” (pg 45).
As I read this I thought about my family. Last summer, when I was without power for a week and decided to try and ‘rough it’ in my downtown apartment, one my Dad’s first questions for me was, “Well, how will you make tea?”
My sister always buys me delicious teas and when she lived in Vancouver she would always make sure to get me some tea from the Great Wall Tea Co. in New Westminster. Yum!
When my Grandma passed away, I was given several of her China tea cups and saucers. I remember vividly sitting around my Grandparents’ kitchen table and eating a Friday or Saturday night meal of waffles (with bacon in them) and drinking tea from Grandma’s fine China cups. My Grandpa made sure that I, along with all of my cousins, knew how to drink tea properly: Pinkies up!
Even Santa makes sure that my stocking is full of interesting teas for Christmas each year.
Beyond the tea, this was a fantastic book! Penny actually had me laughing out loud in my apartment as she described how the school teacher, Miss Jane Neal, taught all of her students how to sing Christmas carols to the tune of “What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor?” because it was the only song she could remember the music for. Penny had me longing to jump into my car and drive to Three Pines, Quebec so that I could have Gabri make me a late (a tea late) and some homemade baking for my walk out into the crisp fall air, so that I could view the art show and see Peter’s masterpieces for myself, so that I could smell Ben’s stinky dog from down the road, and so that I could spend an afternoon wandering around Myrna’s book shop.
I am in good company. Joel Yanofsky in Quill & Quire writes that “Penny is, indeed, more interested in the why in her mysteries than in whodunit or how. However, she still has a knack for killing off her characters with cold-blooded panache.”
I can’t wait for Book Two, Dead Cold, where a member of the community is murdered in an electrified lawn chair!
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” (C.S. Lewis)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)