Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Louise Penny

Louise Penny’s first novel, Still Life, won the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards. Her second book, A Fatal Grace, won the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel, as did her third, The Cruelest Month. Her next, A Rule Against Murder, was a New York Times bestseller, followed by The Brutal Telling, which was a New York Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, and National Indie bestseller. Her latest novel is Bury Your Dead.

A little over two weeks ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now, beside my bed, I have a splayed Ngaio Marsh. The Fontana paperback cover from 1977 shows an elderly man in white tie and tails slumped in the back of a car, a nasty wound on his head. I think he's dead. The book's called Death in a White Tie and was first published in 1938, so it's time travel as well. Back to pre-WW2 London. That alone is fascinating. The pages are quite brown now from age - and the style is showing its age as well. I loved Ngaio Marsh as a teenager. While she herself was a New Zealander, she set most of her books in Britain. Her series hero is Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. I admit to having had a bit of a crush on him. And to Mrs. Marsh's credit, as the series progressed, so did Alleyn, eventually getting married (to Troy) and having at least one child.

But while there's a definite charm to the book its power for me is pure nostalgia - still a formidable attraction. The writing is stilted and sort of silly. The victim - Lord Robert - is called Bunchy and is described as a 'pet'. Alleyn himself is more than a little annoying at times, calling his solid second in command nick names that are a little too precious. There is not much emotion, or real characterization. I haven't yet reached the death of Bunchy (beyond suspecting that's him on the cover) - but I think when he does 'go' there'll be a series of, 'poor old Bunchy,' murmured around his club and that'll be about it.

Still, it is harmless and fun and I don't lie in bed worrying what that thump might have been. I just finished another Ngaio Marsh, so I thought I'd try this one. Easy, light, distracting. Just right for a Quebec winter.

As I read that, I was also reading the latest GM Maillet. Her publisher sent it asking that, if I like it, I might agree to endorse it. Frankly, I get quite a few of those requests and since I'm a slow reader and feel overwhelmed by the demand I generally decline with thanks. Though I'm more likely to agree to a debut author since I remember how much I was helped with my first book.

But I'm such a fan of GM Maillet, who writes traditional mysteries. She's American, but she sets her books in the UK. So I was enthusiastic to read her latest, which is also the start of a new series. The book will come out later in 2011 and is called The Michaelmas Mystery, though that might change - you never know. Either way, it's a terrific book. Lots of fun - pithy, insightful and often hilarious descriptions of characters. I read it in just a few days, by the fire. Which for me is lightning speed. I happily wrote an endorsement.

Next on the pile? The Rule of St. Benedict, The Life of Thomas Merton, Monastic Life, and The Naked Now by Richard Rohr. I start writing my next book in March and its set in a fictional monastery in Quebec. So the research begins. I find it all fascinating.

Hope you're enjoying whatever book you're into! How magnificent to be enthralled by stories.
Visit Louise Penny's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Louise Penny & Trudy.

The Page 69 Test: Still Life.

My Book, The Movie: A Fatal Grace.

The Page 99 Test: The Cruelest Month.

The Page 99 Test: A Rule Against Murder.

The Page 69 Test: The Brutal Telling.

My Book, The Movie: The Brutal Telling.

--Marshal Zeringue