And now it is now,
and the dark thing is here,
and after all it is nothing new;
it is only a memory, after all:
A memory of a fear.
And so I begin to share my experience with Louise Penny's 11th book featuring Armand Gamache, former Chief of Homicide for the Surete' du Quebec, a book entitled The Nature Of The Beast. Every time I read one of this author's books, I think, well, she won't be able to top this one or this one. And I'm wrong. Wow. The poem above is found early in the story and is penned by the old, cranky, very odd resident of Three Pines, the noted poet, Ruth Zardo. It tells of an evil that is uncovered in this story. Here's how it begins...
Laurent Lepage is a 9-year-old boy that everyone in Three Pines knows. He's constantly running into the village and sharing his latest adventures in the forest. They might be travels with aliens or dinosaurs, with Robin Hood or scary creatures. And everyone has grown weary of Laurent and his 'crying wolf'. Today, he runs into the bistro and tells a new fantastic story. Gamache must come and see. Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache have indeed moved to Three Pines after the Chief Inspector's retirement and they are present, along with many other familiar characters, when Laurent tells his tale. Soon after, Laurent disappears and his parents are frantic.
The whole village searches for the missing young boy. Is it possible that one of his many stories could be true? As the search continues, a discovery is made, a dark and dangerous discovery. Evil has indeed been a part of their forest. It's been there for a long time. As the tension increases due to multiple storylines, Gamache and his former homicide team must do battle on several fronts. And the last quarter of the book left me frantically turning the pages.
Louise Penny has again turned her type of story on end. I marvel at her ability to keep the reader interested in a mystery, while sharing such beautiful words - symbolic and meaningful. And this effort included an almost spy/thriller type note and also left us with a new threat that we can only hope will be addressed in the next book. Armand Gamache is retired in the lovely sanctuary of Three Pines, but will he remain? I can assure you that I'll be eager to find out.
Did I have a good experience with The Nature Of The Beast? Yes. The story was gripping. As I said, the language was beautiful. The cover was great with a hint of menace in the black cave-like center, surrounded by green forest leaves. I can't wait for book #12.
I'll close with another quote. In each book, Penny describes Three Pines in a unique way - as a sanctuary or place of comfort and healing that is found on no map. She says that you can only find the village when you are in need of it. Here's this book's special description of Three Pines, an almost magical village:
'She saw the old homes circling the green. She saw the bistro and bookstore and bakery and general store. She saw, Gamache knew, a pretty, but dull, backwater. While he saw a shore. A place where the shipwrecked could finally rest.'