I usually do not read a lot of mysteries, but when I first started reading the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny, it got me hooked! Find out why with my review of the 13th book in the series Glass Houses!
With a lot of book series, there is a risk of quality decline with each subsequent book. However, according to a lot of readers including the ladies in my book group, the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny gets better and better with each installment. Today, I will review the 13th book in that series – Glass Houses – and test that theory as much as I can.
Now a reader might ask, “Who is this Chief Inspector Armand Gamache?” Well reader, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is a part of the Sûreté du Québec, a provincial police force in Quebec, and he investigates a lot of murders that coincidently happen at or near Three Pines – a village where he and his wife reside. By the time Glass Houses rolls around, Gamache is now the Chief Superintendent at the Sûreté Academy.
Also, a reader might inquire, “Do I need to read all the other books to understand what is going on?” That answer, my friend, is no. According to the author herself, it is not essential as all of them are stand-alone books, but if you want to know more about the main characters, it is vital to read the other installments to understand how those people have evolved. For more information, Penny has a FAQ page on her website: https://www.louisepenny.com/faqs.htm
Now to the actual plot: the situation that Gamache finds himself in for Glass Houses is that a cobrador del frac has appeared on the Village Green in Three Pines on All Saints Day. It stands there on a consistent basis, and it makes everybody uneasy. Tensions rise when a body is discovered in the church basement. Flash forward to July when Gamache takes the stand to share details about the murder, and he reveals that it was far more complicated than anybody expected.
The only other book that I have read in the series was the previous book, A Great Reckoning. To me, A Great Reckoning had more compelling new characters like tattooed and pierced Amelia than Glass Houses, but the latter expanded on the recurring characters in ways readers will not expect. For example, readers will get a bit of a back story on Ruth – the profane, crabby, old poet – and why she initially came to Three Pines. In addition, there is a subplot involving fentanyl that is a bit boring to me, but all I can say to anyone who has not read Glass Houses yet is that it will reveal how far Gamache is willing to go in order to serve justice.
In terms of structure, I would have to go with A Great Reckoning over Glass Houses. The former has the beginning-middle-end structure in present day, which makes it pretty consistent. In contrast, the latter switches from the present aka the trial to the past almost constantly. Many people have found this difficult to keep track of. Even a lady from the book club stated that she barely knew if a part was in the present or in the past until Penny mentioned the weather.
Finally, any mystery should keep readers on their toes. One of the main aspects that I noticed about A Great Reckoning was that it contained very loud hints, as in hints that are not all that subtle and that may ruin the excitement and enjoyment. For instance, those loud hints in A Great Reckoning made me figure out who the killer was very early in the book. Luckily, these kinds of hints are almost non-existent in Glass Houses, as in I had an idea who might have been the killer, but I was right and wrong at the same time. Finding out who the killer was had kept me on my toes at times, which is what a mystery should do. All in all, Glass Houses is an improvement over A Great Reckoning to a certain degree.
Additionally, I listened to the Glass Houses audiobook, and I thought that Robert Bathurst aka Sir Anthony Strallan in “Downton Abbey” did a good job in bringing each of the characters to life, even when the vocal differences between each character were only subtle. He also recorded the audiobook for the previous book too, and I enjoyed that one for the same reasons.
Overall, I would recommend Glass Houses as well as any other book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, especially to those who love mysteries and character-based novels. It does not have much emphasis on the plots themselves, but the author did that on purpose to focus more on the characters. I want to see how the characters deal with the future crimes.
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