Category: Mystery

Review: A Fatal Grace

A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

Gamache was the best of them, the smartest and bravest and strongest because he was willing to go into his own head alone, and open all the doors there, and enter all the dark rooms. And make friends with what he found there.


A Fatal Grace is the second book in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, and it’s even better than the first. I am completely hooked on this series, and I want to read all of them as fast as possible. (I bought the next book in the series a couple of days after finishing this one.)

This book takes us back to Three Pines with another mysterious death. This time, CC de Poitiers has been electrocuted in plain site at a curling match. (Does it get any more Canadian than that?) Somehow, no one saw anything, and no one is too upset that CC is dead. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called in to investigate, and he soon realizes that something very strange is going on, and the people of Three Pines may know more than they’re letting on.

Where Still Life was a slow build, A Fatal Grace is more fast-paced right from the start. The characters are really starting to develop, and there is an overarching mystery involving Gamache and a past case that is becoming more prevalent. (And I believe it will continue throughout the rest of the series.) I love seeing how the characters are growing and changing, and how they become involved in solving the mystery. And while it may seem unbelievable that yet another murder takes place in a small town, Penny makes it completely believable, and I didn’t have to suspend my belief at all. Everything is connected.

Gamache is one of the best detective characters I’ve ever read, and I love him more with each book. In my review of Still Life (Read that review HERE) I said that I keep thinking I’ll run into him because he’s so well written he seems like a real person. I still feel that way, and I’m kind of disappointed that I’ll never be able to actually meet him.

A Fatal Grace is another fantastic cozy mystery in the Inspector Gamache series, and it’s even better than the first. This book takes place during the Christmas holidays, so if you’re a seasonal reader, now is the perfect time to get started on this series. (Still Life takes place over Canadian Thanksgiving, so if you haven’t read this series, start now!!) I loved this book, and I’ll be sitting down with the third book very soon.



As with Still Life, A Fatal Grace features the most delicious food, and I wish more than anything that I could sit down for a meal at the local bistro in Three Pines. During the off murdery season, of course. This is such a great series for a book club, especially if you want to tie food in to your meetings. Cozy mystery and great food? That’s all I want for Christmas.

Review: The Rules of Magic

The Rules of Magic

Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a digital galley of this book – all opinions are my own!

The summer had started them thinking: If they were not like everyone else, who, then, were they?

Y’all, my love for Alice Hoffman runs deep. I’ve been reading her books since high school, and she writes magical realism like no one else. I recently re-read Practical Magic (Read my review HERE.) so that I would be ready to read The Rules of Magic, a prequel to Practical Magic, out today. If you loved Practical Magic, or even just liked it, I can almost guarantee you’re going to love this one. It is wonderfully magical, perfect for fall, and has more suspense than I’m used to from Hoffman. I absolutely loved it.

In Practical Magic, Gillian and Sally live with their aunts, Franny and Jet, after their parents die. They spend much of the book denying their ancestry and both being fascinated by and trying to ignore the strange things the aunts do to help the women in their small town. The Rules of Magic is about Franny and Jet, their childhood, and how they came to be the women of Practical Magic. Franny, Jet, and their brother, Vincent, live in New York City, where their mother sets strict rules for them. But once a year, they visit their aunt Isabelle in a small Massachusetts town where their family has lived for centuries, the house on Magnolia Street. They, too, are trying to escape the Owens’ family curse, where magic rules and love leads to misfortune. But as Franny and Jet grow up, and Vincent makes his own way, they discover that you can’t outrun your destiny.

This is more blatantly magical than the first book, where magic is talked about and hinted at, and I have to say that I loved that. I loved seeing exactly what the Owens siblings were capable of, and how they dealt with that from youth into adulthood. I don’t want to say that I liked this better than Practical Magic . . . but I think I did. The characters are so well-written I felt like I knew them, and I wanted to hug all three siblings and help them somehow. I also really appreciated the added suspense in this novel. Hoffman is a beautiful writer, and I will read anything she writes, but The Rules of Magic contains an element of suspense that she doesn’t usually include, and it worked really well. The beginning story is interesting and will keep your attention because of the characters, but the end of the book will have you reading as fast as possible to find out what happens.

Like in her other books, Hoffman sticks with some tried and true themes: family is family, being an outsider is hard, and being true to yourself is important. She uses these in a lot of her books, but never feel tired because she introduces new ideas in every story, and this one felt fresh too. I think she takes a lot of things from her own life and weaves them into her stories. Hoffman used to be notoriously private, preferring people to just read her books and ignore her, leaving her alone at home. If you read The Rules of Magic closely, that theme of the importance of home is loud and clear. No matter where the characters go, or what they go through, they always go back home. The house on Magnolia Street draws everyone back in, and remaining close to home becomes very important to all of the Owens women.

The Rules of Magic is one of Hoffman’s best works yet and, selfishly, I hope she writes more about the Owens family, because I cannot get enough. This is great all year, but especially perfect for your nightstand in October!



Review: The Marsh King’s Daughter

The Marsh King’s Daughter

Thanks to Netgalley and Putnam for providing me with a digital galley of this book – all opinions are my own!

Memories can be tricky, especially those from childhood.

Ripped from the headlines stories can be tricky. Too much detail, and it seems indulgent and grotesque. Too little and it can be, frankly, boring. Karen Dionne’s The Marsh King’s Daughter is no regular ripped from the headlines story, but she takes inspiration from a few and has twisted them into a wonderful suspenseful fairy tale of a book.

Helena Pelletier has an idyllic life in the UP (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula). A loving, supportive husband, two daughters, and a jam-making business that is flourishing. What no one, including her family, knows, is that her mother was a famously-abducted teenager, and her father, the abductor, has been in prison for 20 years. Helena’s childhood was spent in a cabin deep in the woods of the UP, unaware that a society existed outside of her small world. When she and her mother escape, she acclimates to the “new” world and sheds her past as soon as she is old enough to change her name and leave it all behind. Now her father has escaped, and Helena has to face both her fear and childhood love of him, all while trying to find him before he finds her family.

This is one the best, most well-written books I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved it, and Dionne’s storytelling abilities are out of this world. There is definitely suspense and mystery in this book, but I also found a lot of fairy tale elements woven in. A young girl kept captive, unaware of the outside world. An evil male figure and his cowed counterpart. There are some mystical aspects of Native American culture woven in, rather than real magic, but they serve as the magical element of this suspenseful fairy tale. What I really enjoyed most was the dichotomy between Helena’s hatred and love for her father (and her mother). As a child, she revered him. She knew he could be mean and harsh, but he was still her father, and he taught her how to hunt and fish, and she loved him fiercely. Once she discovered the truth about her mother’s kidnapping, she hated him for it, but that familial love never really goes away. Even after 20 years, she knew her father well enough to know exactly where he would go after escaping prison, and even though she is hunting him down like prey, it also feels like a game of hide and seek between father and daughter.

The book also mixes in excerpts from Hans Christian Andersen’s short story The Marsh King’s Daughter. Andersen’s story is about a girl named Helga who is born to the wicked Marsh King and a fairy princess. She takes on attributes of both parents, and is only able to be freed once she feels compassion for another person and rids herself of her father’s characteristics. The parallels between that story and Helena’s struggle with her feelings for her father are striking and very well done. I really liked the way Dionne mixed in an old fairy tale with Helena’s story, and used it to solidify the struggles Helena faced when it came to her feelings for her parents.

If you like suspense, mystery, or fairy tales, this is a truly compelling story that combines all three into an amazing book. I cannot recommend The Marsh King’s Daughter strongly enough!


I haven’t read or watched Room, because I think I’m too sensitive to read that particular subject matter, but I have heard from others that this book is very different. If you’re concerned about the content (it does involve a child being kidnapped and impregnated against her will), the focus is not on the relationship between Helena’s father and mother, so I don’t think it will be a problem in that regard.

Although I was provided with a review copy of this book, I ended up listening to a lot of it on audio and the narration was extremely good! I listened every chance I got, and at one point hid in my room away from my family so that I could finish it. So whether you use your eyes or your ears for this one, you can’t lose!


Review: Still Life

Still Life

“Gamache wondered about this woman who had chosen to live with so many secrets for so long, then chosen to let them all out. And died because of them? That was the question.”

Anne Bogel’s bookish influence is far and wide, and it has certainly made an impact on my reading life this year. After I heard her recommend Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels several times on her podcast, What Should I Read Next, and hearing Madeleine from Top Shelf Text rave about them as well, I had to give the first in the series, Still Life, a try. This type of mystery is not one I would normally reach for, but I’m so glad that I did, and I’m getting ready to settle in with the rest of the books (12!) for the next several months.

Chief Inspector Gamache (of the Surêté du Québec–Penny is a Canadian author), a quiet but observant man, is called to the small town of Three Pines after a local woman, Jane Neal, is found dead in the woods. At first, everyone is convinced that her death was the result of a hunting accident. After examining the scene of the crime (and the residents of Three Pines) Gamache is certain that Jane was not accidentally killed, but murdered. As we get to know many of the people who live in Three Pines and were friends with Jane, it becomes clear that the suspect is closer than anyone thinks.

This is the ultimate cozy mystery, taking place in a small town on the verge of winter. I want to go to Three Pines, even though it might actually be a murdery place. The town is the kind of idyllic place we all think we want to settle down in, and I felt like I was walking around the town when reading Penny’s descriptions of it. Gamache is such a great character. He is charming like Poirot and observant like Columbo. (On a side note, have you ever watched the Columbo TV series? It was so good!) He isn’t flashy and he makes mistakes, and isn’t afraid to admit. I so appreciate that Penny loves her characters enough to give them all flaws and make them real human beings. I keep thinking that I might run into Gamache in real life someday. The other characters aren’t ignored either. Penny lets us get to know, in detail, all the characters, not just Gamache and the main players. She develops everyone’s personalities, and that really gives the book its heart.

Still Life is a study in how people often pay more attention to what is said than to what people actually do. Actions speak louder than words, if we’re listening well enough to hear them. I loved this first cozy mystery in the Inspector Gamache series, and I can’t wait to read the rest!


Extra Note!

It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention a particularly lush character in this novel: the food. All the food. Penny describes so much delicious food that reading the book made me hungry! If you read this for a book club, it would be fun for everyone to choose a dish from the book to bring to the meeting. You’ll certainly have a lot of delicious options to choose from!