November 30, 2018
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
Genre/Categories: Mystery, Detective, Crime Fiction, Canada
In this recent installment of the Chief Inspector Gamache series, Armand Gamache remains suspended from the Surete du Quebec, but this doesn’t stop him from searching for a murderer, serving as liquidator for a mysterious woman’s will, and hunting for missing drugs (an unresolved story line from the previous book). All the usual characters return and a few new ones are introduced. Three Pines retains its reputation and status as a safe sanctuary and caring community.
First Thoughts. I’ve waited all year for this highly anticipated release. At first, we were not sure there would be a new installment as Louise Penny suffered the loss of her dear husband. However she surprised publishers and fans by writing in spite of her grief and found joy in the process. Part of the reason writing this installment was difficult is because she based the Chief Inspector Gamache character on her husband. In fact, she was quoted as saying that she created Armand Gamache as someone she could be married to because she knew she’d be spending many years with him.
Even though the plot is complex and the characters well drawn and the sense of place vividly described, this will not rank as among my favorites of the series. Last year’s was a stand out and I rounded up my 4.5 rating to 5 Stars on Goodreads. This story didn’t quite hit that high mark. For me, the difference between a four and a five is the emotional engagement factor. Last year’s had that for me and this year’s did not. Although, it is a solid and recommendable read…especially for fans of the series.
For November’s Most Compelling Character, I’ve chosen Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. He’s one of my favorite characters from all my reading in the past several years and certainly a favorite from this month.
“Chief Inspector Lacoste regarded the steady man [Gamache] in front of her, who believed everyone could be saved. Believed he could save them. It was both his saving grace and his blind spot.”
Above all, he’s a kind and compassionate person, always looking out for the vulnerable and watching out for the innocent and unprotected. We empathize with Gamache and his desperation to find the lethal drugs that went missing at the end of the last story. We realize that he is tortured with the thoughts of the damage it will inflict on the community and will take desperate measures to secure the drugs. In addition, we appreciate his frustration and disappointment as he lives with his suspension. As we read the story, we admire Gamache for his brilliance and courage.
Symbolism. In addition to the memorable and honorable Chief Inspector Gamache character, I love the community of Three Pines and the symbolism as a place of safety, solace, and comfort. A place where vulnerable, troubled, and hurting souls are cared for, comforted, kept warm, and fed.
Observation. What intrigued me in the story was the clear juxtaposition of the two streets: the street that housed the financial institutions and the indirect comparison with the street where the poverty stricken, prostitutes, and drug dealers lived. So close to one another but worlds apart.
Plot. Louise Penny is a masterful story teller and pulls readers quickly into the story. Although the middle bogged down a bit, the ending was tension filled and contained a couple of plot twists (one of which I predicted). What I admire the most about the author is her ability to balance a character driven story with a plot driven story. Whereas most stories can be defined as either character driven or plot drive, this series is both. To me, these are the best reads and explains why the series has enjoyed overall popularity and success. There’s a plot twist at the end that left me speculating about the continuation of the series (although the author has given no reason to suspect that this will conclude the series).
Rating. What kept me from awarding Kingdom of the Blind a full five stars? Partly this is personal preference as I was less than fully engaged with the financial story line. I found myself skimming through the sections that involved detailed discussions of tracking the money. Also, I thought the dialogue was a bit stiff in places and the interactions and conversations seemed a bit repetitive or rehashed from past stories. Finally, I didn’t think the two story lines meshed together well because they were very different with little connections between them. It was almost like two separate books.
Recommended. Kingdom of the Blind is definitely recommended for fans of the series, and for readers who enjoy stories with a moral and kind main character, and for those who appreciate mostly gentle mysteries and detective stories (minimal profanity, some tension but usually no graphic violence). *I recommend reading the series in order starting with Still Life. It is possible to read them as stand alones but richer when you have the full context and background. In my opinion, some stories are stronger than others and you can see my star ratings for each one on my goodreads account (books read shelf). Overall, the series is popular with many readers.
My Star Rating: 4.5 Stars
Meet the Author, Louise Penny
LOUISE PENNY is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (five times) and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.
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I’m working on a bookish Holiday Gift Guide….Coming soon!
My Fall TBR
I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often! I have only one more book to read and I’m waiting for the library hold to come in. So I’ll be finished with my Fall TBR soon!
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Are you a fan of the Chief Inspector Gamache series? If you’ve read some of the installments, which have been your favorites?
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