The Nature of the Beast is the third book I’ve read in the Inspector Gamache series and I’ve enjoyed them all! This book raised some great questions about good and evil, especially when it comes to the question, Can people change?
Today, while scrolling through Twitter, I was disturbed by an article from the US. It was an article about the number of prisoners being executed in a short amount of time, I think 8 in the next few days in just one state. I scrolled by too fast because I was so disturbed by the fact that capital punishment still exists.
In Penny’s novel, a serial killer is mixed up in the building of a secret supergun. This serial killer isn’t just evil, he seems like he’s irredeemable. he is beyond saving. Even the generous, thoughtful, and wise Inspector Armande Gamache does see the possibility for this man man to change and become a functioning human in society. It was a dark read, one that I wasn’t prepared for.
The village of Three Pines in Quebec, a fictional town, is the site of a genius group of men’s idea for a supergun, one that doesn’t require technology to deliver its devastating blows. The residents of the town don’t know that the supergun even exists, expect for some of the town’s oldest, and most secretive residents. Twenty or so years after the men building the gun came to town, the evil of their presence still lingers in the collective memory of the town. In fact, the town’s poet, Ruth, writes about these evil men, specifically the man who became the serial killer, in her poems and the poem about her encounter with this seeming animal won her awards.
The three men responsible for building this terrible weapon, one they were willing to sell to highest bidder, regardless of the destruction that will follow. They also took the construction of the supergun one next step: they named it the whore of Babylon and made references to the Bible’s book of Revelation and the coming of the end of the world. The creepy foreknowledge of these men, and yet their determination to continue with their project brought up issues, like the building of the atomic bomb. How evil cruel can humanity become? But more telling, how much evil are people willing to put up with before they intervene? What is it about our human nature that openly trusts to the point of complete destruction.
As humans, what is our limit for evil, pain, suffering and hurt? If we don’t have to do work or cause a stink, are we ok with things like the death penalty? Yet at the same time, what about those of us who are strong, brave, and courageous to stand up and say no. Thank goodness for the police and others who enforce rules and laws to keep the greater good safe. Yet time and again, we are reminded of what happens when we are willing to put up with more and more evil. More and more behaviours and actions that truly are not fine.
Penny leave her readers unsettled. Yes, in the end the murderer is caught and the old serial killer remains in jail, yet what about the thought that some people are not able to change? What about the thought that some people enjoy the suffering of others? What about the idea that sometimes we want to see an eye-for-an-eye justice?
The courage and strength to forgive and rebuild is something that Penny builds into her novels. Inspector Gamache is rebuilding his life in the town of Three Pines. Three Pines is constantly rebuilding itself as a community tragedy after tragedy. Yet isn’t these moments of suffering and pain that bring communities together? We feel like we might suffer alone, yet that is hardly the case. So, for Penny’s characters, the grief and the burden of overcoming hate and fear is done together. Humans trusting in the good in each other instead of seeing on the bad.
I was reminded recently by an acquaintance that my first inclination is to openly, and fully, trust people. I always assume the best for those I meet. I’m a person who gives you trust, yet as things happen, that trust disappears. I believe this is a great quality! Sometimes I get burned and hurt, yet it’s worth it.
“Some people keep their darkness inside, and some hide their light. You, mon ami, almost certainly have a croissant in there.” (Penny)
“A gadabout gossip can’t be trusted with a secret,
but someone of integrity won’t violate a confidence.” (Proverbs 11:13)