Dead Cold in the Canadian Winter


Dead Cold is the second Armand Gamache novel by Louise Penny. It is, in fact, the first one I have read but it will not be the last (book 3 in the series is on its way to me).

On a boring afternoon, I decided to watch a catch-up programme on my tablet and came across a Three Pines mystery. Three Pines  is the village in which Louise Penny has set her novels. The programme details read as though it was a gentle murder mystery in the style of Murder she Wrote or the bookstore mysteries which sometimes grace the afternoon TV schedules. It had the elements I was looking for in a bit of escapism – a small village, lovely Canadian scenery, a bit of intrigue and some quirky characters. I settled down to watch.

It was a proper cosy mystery and  nice change from the heavy reading and viewing I have been doing lately. I was intrigued by the character of the Chief Inspector who seemed like a village bobby with access to some high tech computers. The poet, Ruth  Zardo, was also an interesting character – a brilliant poet and also a little bit off kilter. An artistic husband and wife who did a fair amount of bickering. And it was set in Canada so it was rather pretty. I hastened to find out more about the author.

Louise Penny, it seems, has had a career in broadcasting and has hit on a top formula. All the elements of a good cozy murder mystery are to be found within the covers of her books. Her fictional detective has more than a bit of the Brit about him, making him a little bit of an outsider and also a little bit less predictable. Despite the murders, I feel that Three Pines is a good place to live. I wanted to know more, so I order the next book in the series –  Dead Cold.

It is an excellent read. I think, I clocked up five hours on the sofa in total. So, what is good about it? Excellent location and cast of characters, for sure. In addition, the mystery is revealed little by little. There are clues thrown in but their significance is not clear until the end. Each chapter advances the story and deepens our understanding of the characters. At the end of the chapter the reader is left to wonder what it all means. Therefore, the need is to keep reading. This built up of tension, drawing of the characters and the odd clue, maker the reader do some work. Also, there is a character who was in the first book and was neither nice or competent. She turns up in book two but with some of her background explained. She is not likable but now understandable. Gamache, of course, is at odds with his superiors, so there is some personal tension and conflict.

Louise Penny held my interest to the very end. For that I award her *****. The novel is a model of “how to write a cozy murder mystery” and therefore a useful guide to the genre for trainee novelists. My copy was 408 pages long printed in size 12 pica. Not too long or too short. Louise Penny is, in my view, a worthy winner of all the crime writing awards she has won.

I have ordered book three of the series for a little weekend reading.

Her new book is out in August 2016.