Title: THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Crime | Suspense | Mystery
Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Québec village.
But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.
And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.
And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.
A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.
Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.
WHAT I THOUGHT
Louise Penny has penned some of the most compelling stories I have ever read. While some feel a little like a cosy, traditional ‘whodunit,’ others definitely feel like gritty, contemporary crime fiction. Yet others have elements of being a police procedural, and one or two, like THE NATURE OF THE BEAST, have felt like out and out thrillers. Such is the skill of Penny in incorporating these genres into her work. Not only does this make each and every book seem a little different from the last, she also isn’t above ripping themes straight of the headlines. Even if some of those news-worthy items are from decades past.
This is what Penny brings to her novel, layering on nuance and depth not only to the fictional village of Three Pines, but to the people who populate it, or who pass through. I say, ‘people’ rather than characters, because the truth is, once you start reading about Penny’s characters, they become real. As real as anyone I’ve ever met.
Certainly, Penny’s series is as much about the characters, as it is about setting. And her depiction of the English-French dynamic here in Québec is spot on. We see this throughout the series by way of interplay from the various characters. Each with their quirky foibles, outrageous, or restrained sensibilities, and yes, dark corners. Of which, there are many.
THE NATURE OF THE BEAST is a story of parallel mysteries: the first being the death of a 9 year-old boy who claims to have seen aliens, and monsters in the forest. The second mystery involves a contentious play that, as we find out, is written by a notorious murderer. As these two mysteries unfold, we’re drawn into a very murky past that involve an unscrupulous arms dealer hellbent on making a name for himself, even if that means unleashing Armageddon.
I love how Penny pulls together the multiple threads, and weaves a thoroughly believable story of loss, greed, betrayal, and lies. Where more than one character has to face the truth of a decision made in the past, come back to haunt them with shattering consequences. And live with the knowledge of what they’ve done.
An outstanding read from beginning to end. Penny takes it, once again, to the next level.
Rating: 9 / 10
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A note to readers: while you don’t have to read the series in order, as Penny write each book so it can be read as a ‘stand alone’. It is, nonetheless, advisable to try read them from the beginning to follow the nuances and growth of each character.