I’m always happy to spend time with Gamache eat al. Particularly Ruth. I adore Ruth. I want to be her when I’m old. So I’ve been looking forward to this book for quite some time.
From the beginning, Penny has done a remarkable job of creating Three Pines – the sights and smells and tastes. Particularly the tastes. She spends a remarkable amount of time detailing the food her characters eat. Like it’s a little obtrusive. Charming, but obtrusive.
In ‘Glass Houses,’ we find Gamache at a professional crossroads. He’s now the head of the Surete, and he’s gambled his reputation – his entire career – on a dicey plan to take down the most powerful criminals he’s ever encountered. Jean-Guy and Isabelle are, as always, at his side, but there are others who wonder whether Gamache is corrupt or inept or both.
At the same time, a strange presence descends on Three Pines, setting everyone – including four regular, long-time visitors – on edge.
Turns out nobody knows those visitors as well as they thought they did. Turns out those visitors and Gamache’s grand plan are not unconnected.
I was shocked, I tell you. Shocked.
The problem with having a successful 13 book series is that it’s hard to keep things fresh. You inevitably become a little too well known to your readers. A little predictable. And that’s what’s happening here.
There’s no way any faithful Penny reader didn’t predict the outcome, or at least most of it. It was like a freight train speeding through a tunnel right towards you. But I’ll say this for her: there was at least one genuine surprise. Perhaps one and a half (you’ll know the half when you read it). And, after thirteen books, that’s not bad.
Plot aside, I’m beginning to find Penny a bit too self-consciously poetic. Over-sophisticated, with no humour to cut through. Except, of course, for Ruth, the hatchet-mouthed old poet who rescues this entire literary universe from drowning in it’s own tasteful restraint.
Have I mentioned that I love Ruth? More than Armand or Jean-Guy or Clara or Olivier, or anyone else. Ruth is the one bright, fresh note in Three Pines. Among such nice, calm, thoughtful people, she’s like salt to caramel. Entirely necessary. If it weren’t for Ruth, I don’t think I’d have made it this far in the series.
But she is there. And so I can’t wait to visit her again.