Gamache Series Open Discussion

Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

Paul Hochman

Discussion on “Gamache Series Open Discussion

  1. Cathryne Spencer says:

    I’m wondering if L. P. was planting seeds for future books, as well as using magicians’ tricks to move our attention away from the important places when she introduced the “romantic” threads for Ruth and Clara. There is a level of discomfort in Ruth’s and Reine Marie’s behavior in Massey’s studio, both behaving uncharacteristically, with Ruth supposedly attracted to Massey and he to her. Then Clara is presented as possibly attracted to Chartrand and he to her. In each case, the men are rather endearingly portrayed, the women seem not themselves, the friends (Reine-Marie and Gamache and we the readers), uncomfortable, confused. We’re looking in all the wrong places. It’s not until close to the end that Ruth and Clara talk to Gamache about the reasons for their behavior with the two men.
    Clara says: “If Marcel knew where Peter went and didn’t tell us, it’s because he wanted to keep us away from Tabaquen. . . He might be keeping an eye on us, but I’m watching him too. That’s why I wanted him with us.” (p. 307)
    At the end, Gamache said to Ruth about Professor Massey: “But you were afraid of him. . .You saw something in him that scared you. That’s why you were so nice to him. Jean-Guy caught on. We all assumed you were nice because you liked him, but Jean-Guy said you probably hated him.”
    “I didn’t hate him,” said Ruth.
    “But J-G was right, wasn’t he? You might not have hated him, but there was fear there. Otherwise why say, ‘noli temere?’ Be not afraid.”
    “That blank canvas on his easel was one of the saddest things I’ve seen,” said Ruth. “An artist who’s lost his way. It builds up. Eats away at you. . . Professor Massey was nothing. Empty. Like the canvas. I found that terrifying.” (P. 372)

    L.P. was so effective in pulling our eyes away from where and whom we needed to look to solve the mystery.

    I think that L.P. led the reader astray by showing uncharacteristical behavior on the part of both Clara and Ruth in other areas besides the “romantic” confusions, like when Clara overreacted to Gamache offering help early in the book, saying something about G. not wanting her to worry “her pretty little head.” She sounded shrill and unfair, setting us up to not know when to trust her.

    Amazingly done, I didn’t know who to trust when!

  2. Anna says:

    Really interesting post Cathryne. There is a lot of sleight of hand with writing, revealing just enough, not too much and employing a bit of distraction. But life is like that. How often have we been distracted by something and not noticed other events unfolding in front of us. It has happened to me. We move through the tunnel of our own lives and we have to be very careful to keep looking around to see what else is going on.
    Subplots are good distractors as well. Get the reader thinking about one track while weaving another tale around another character or story.
    I think Louise is a master of both. In Still Life there were a number of distractions to lead us away from the killer, or keep us note rested while the search for the killer progressed. These included Armand being willing to be suspended to avoid arresting the wrong person.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      These are very interesting observations, Anna and Cathryne. I dive right in and miss all these sorts of things. I forget I’m reading a story, crafted by a writer. I just think I’m right there in the story. I haven’t learned how to be objective about Louise’s books, or any novel. I usually read non-fiction, which is an altogether different kind of writing. I had read so many books about Christianity, the church, the Christian life, etc. that I needed to “come up for air”! That’s when I started reading Peter Robinson’s novels, and then after I heard about Louise’s, hers. These discussions are helping me a lot to get a sense of the art of fiction writing. When I was a kid, I loved the books of Enid Blyton, and thought I wanted to be a writer. I tried once, and knew I had no idea how to create character. I’ve come to think that a person doesn’t so much choose to be a novelist as writing chooses them. It’s a kind of a calling.

      • Anna says:

        I loved Enid Blyton too as a child.
        I find it interesting to hear your perspective Sylvia. My daughter is working on literary analysis at the moment and don’t like that it doesn’t let her enjoy the story. It’s best if she reads the story for fun and then to analyse. I felt the same at school. I eventually discovered reading Pride and Prejudice that I understood it more when we analyzed it and then enjoyed it more.
        I hope the reread helps you enjoy the books more.

        • Sylvia H. says:

          Anna, I do plan to start again at the beginning and re-read them. I really believe I’ll see much more in them as I read, now that I’ve had the benefit of all the insights of this group of devotees.

      • Barbara H. Johnson says:

        Sylvia, like you I read lots of non-fiction. My husband jokes about me “coming up for air”. I love reading books on history, archaeology, Christianity and Judaism….especially when all 4 subjects are in one book. Light mysteries–little cozies are so different. Until the re-read, I loved LP’s books but missed much. They can not be read as a light “little mystery” book can. I loved the books and most of the characters but ready missed much.
        Yes, I think the writer is “chosen”.

  3. Anna says:

    Note rested should have been otherwise interested! Spellcheck fail.

  4. Paul Hochman says:

    Hi Fellow Bistro Dwellers!

    THE LONG WAY HOME is up for the Best Mystery of 2014 over on GoodReads. Cast your vote!

    https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-mystery-thriller-books-2014

    • Barbara H. Johnson says:

      Paul,Thanks for letting us know. I just voted.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      Yes, thank you, Paul. I just voted too. I looked back to 2013 and noticed Louise’s How the Light Gets In got over 10,200 votes then, but it was fourth. The top books got well over 20,000 votes. All those other people are missing such gems! But the word gets out, as we tell our friends and she’ll be right up there! After all, they can’t ignore a New York Times best selling novelist!

    • Peg in Wisconsin says:

      Trying to vote but can’t remember my GoodReads password, and Yahoo email is weird today so my password reset message is unavailable right now. I’ll keep trying.

  5. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    Once a month, we attend a program at our Museum of History. This year they have all been on the Civil war in Georgia in 1864 and the impact on Augusta. The Union General, Sherman and his troops were in Ga. for almost half of that year. Then they turned into South Carolina and headed North. A Symposium on the War in 1864 will be held this weekend with meetings on Thurs. and Fri. nights and all day Sat. I have Attended the others starting in 2011 ( the War started in 1861) but I’m skipping this year. Don’t know if I’ll attend the last one next year or not. Today’s speaker said the Confederacy should have have surrendered during the siege of Atlanta and surely when Atlanta was lost. I agree completely. The outcome was fairly obvious by then I think.

  6. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    I just posted without intending to. Before and after the meeting today, Sam and I and some friends had interesting discussions on politics and American History. Yesterday was election day for many local and state offices. US Representatives and Senators were elected also. Maybe we will have a little rest from the endless phone calls and TV ads for those running. All of this is to say I don’t know more than the very basics about government in Canada or Australia. I do know more about the election process in England. Has there ever been any mention of the local gov. in Three Pines? If so, my memory fails me.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      Only that Ruth is Fire Chief, as far as I can remember!
      In Canada, we have a parliament, like in England, but instead of the House of Lords, our upper house is the Senate. Some parties want to abolish it. At this point, our Senate is appointed, not elected. There’s much less of the two houses being controlled by different parties, but it can happen. Our lower house is called the House of Commons. We have more than two political parties, so we can sometimes have a minority government and it may not last four years. The provinces all have a legislature, just one house. The Senate is only in the federal Parliament in Ottawa. The system is quite a bit different than the U.S. system.

      • Barbara H. Johnson says:

        Thanks, Sylvia. What a combination of English and US names for branches of government. I understand some people run for office for the prestige and power and some because they truly believe they can improve the nation. Very thick skin is surely a requirement. I can’t imagine what it must do to a child to read or hear a parent insulted and criticized.

  7. Sylvia H. says:

    Just heard tonight on the six o’clock news that the Republicans gained a majority in the Senate, so now they control both houses. This will make life difficult and more stressful for President Obama. He’s probably glad he has only two years to go!

  8. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    While thinking about politics and Three Pines, I realized we have no mention of barbershops, Beauty Salons, Doctors or dentists, auto repair shops, florist shops or gasoline stations. Does everyone drive to another town for these services ? Maybe I don’t remember and something has been mentioned. Do smaller rural communities have bus service to a town ? I sound like I really am moving there.
    Another thought is how does an author decides what amenities to include ?
    I just remembered the rush to the Hospital when the 3 ladies had been out on the ice and the man driving was saying all those words we had to decipher. So funny! Remembering names is not my strong suit.
    Ok, enough of my musings, Hope everyone has a good day.
    Hope you are healing, Millie.
    Anna, Good thoughts to you and your Mother.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      Barbara, in the early books, two small towns or large villages are mentioned, Williamsburg and St. Remi, and they seem to have various amenities. They are very close to Three Pines, but I’m not sure if they are real or fictional (they serve their purpose either way), and also in A Trick of the Light, Peter and Olivier go to Knowlton for newspapers to get the reviews of Clara’s vernissage. That’s a real town, I know. So although there aren’t many amenities like barbers, hairdressers, doctors, etc. in Three Pines, they are not very far away. I forget where the hospital was, but I’ll find out when I re-read. I didn’t come into the re-reads until The Murder Stone (or A Rule Against Murder), so I haven’t yet re-read the earlier books. There usually aren’t buses between towns and villages because populations are small and it isn’t a paying proposition to have intertown transportation.

    • Anna says:

      Thank you for the kind thoughts Barbara.

      I was thinking about all your questions. I just assumed that the Three Piners travelled for many services and shops, that would be fairly normal. It’s access to petrol that concerned me. Even some very small towns here have a petrol station, usually attached to another business such a shop, but not everywhere. I went through these thoughts with my book. I have a petrol station in my town, but I am not sure I have mentioned it in the novel. Maybe in the sequel!

      • Sylvia H. says:

        I imagine they would get gasoline in St. Remi or Williamsburg. That’s one of those funny little word things we were talking about a while ago and if books needed to have words changed for other countries than the one they were written in. Here we never use the word “petrol”, but it’s “gasoline” we put in our cars, shortened to “gas”. “Petrol” is used in Britain. In small places, gas stations are being closed because they really aren’t viable.

  9. Sylvia H. says:

    Today I read something in our daily paper that brought back horrifying memories! They are building a new bridge in Montreal to replace the aging Champlain Bridge. They were trying to decide what to name the new bridge – someone had suggested they name it after the great hockey star, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, but apparently his family has asked them not to use his name. But the whole issue of crumbling infrastructure is a huge one in this country generally and I couldn’t help thinking of the corruption over it in How the Light Gets In, and the plot to blow up the Champlain Bridge. It gave me shudders!

    • Nancy Miller says:

      I agree Sylvia. The first thing I thought of when reading How The Light Gets In was how close it was to real life. The tunnels downtown always look like they need help. That was also part of HTLGI (isn’t it part of the first chapter?).

      • Sylvia H. says:

        Yes, Nancy, when Audrey is driving through the Ville Marie Tunnel on her way to work, she sees all the cracks and spaces and it looks like it might collapse at any moment. I heard that there were cracks in the Big O – the Olympic Stadium – and I have been expecting it to collapse ever since 1976! Somehow it still stands, but I don’t know how much it is used nowadays, as I don’t live in Quebec.

  10. Sylvia H. says:

    The poetry in Louise’s books has always appealed to me, and I was very interested when she revealed in the acknowledgements section that many of them came from Margaret Atwood. She named the book, Morning in the Burnt House. I bought it and read it and enjoyed the poems there, some of which I recognized, of course. But there’s one quote Louise uses a lot, more in some books than others, that I can’t trace. It is “Who hurt you once, so far beyond repair, that you greet each overture with curling lip?” Once or twice there’s another part to it, “Then shall forgiver and forgiven meet, or will it be, as always was, too late?” I have always wondered that about Ruth. The quote sounds like Margaret Atwood’s style, but I couldn’t find it in Morning in the Burnt House, so I assume it comes from another of her poetry books. Up until I found out about this particular book, I didn’t know she wrote poetry. But I would like to track down that quote. I tried Googling it, but nothing came up.

  11. Sylvia H. says:

    The Bistro is a very quiet place tonight. Good thing Olivier has his villagers! If he had to rely on us to make a living, he would have to close up shop!! But we’ll assume all our village friends are there chatting away about their day. I always come in to visit in the late evening. Then I go to my favourite chair and keep on reading the book I’m into at the moment. It’s called “Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint” by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is a highly unconventional Lutheran pastor. She is so down-to-earth and real. She’s more comfortable with the street people, the outcast, the marginalized. She writes wonderfully and makes me laugh a lot and also cry a lot.

    • Nancy Miller says:

      Sylvia, the Big O is still in use but I live in the west end of Montreal (NDG) and haven’t been to the Big O for years. My husband used to go through the Ville Marie Tunnel to the east end to his work place but is retired now so it’s only occasional trips. Yes, the Bistro is quiet tonight. About the poetry, Louise named another book by an author now deceased but I can’t remember the name of it and don’t know where to look for the reference. It was discussed in the re-read.
      Just finished reading Missing in Action (John D Harvie) by a Navigator from Westmount who was a POW during WWII. Am also re-reading A Secret Gift..How One Man’s Kindness–and a Trove of Letters–Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup. Wish I could get into Myrna’s bookstore at this point. I’d love to browse.

      • Sylvia H. says:

        Yes, wouldn’t it be fun!!

        I’m glad the Big O is still in use. I was also struck by how close to life all that was. I know the construction industry has been very corrupt for years, particularly when any government money (i.e. taxpayers’ money) is involved. It made me think of the Sponsorship Scandal, which was pretty much the same kind of thing, money given but work not done. Then there have been more recent scandals along the same lines, involving the Quebec government, but I didn’t hear any details here in the Maritimes. Sometimes when Louise writes about something that real and close to home, I wonder if she might endanger herself. Fortunately it’s all fictional, not as if she were writing a non-fiction article, but organized crime might not care about the difference. I found it very chilling!

        • Barbara H. Johnson says:

          Corruption. If tax money were spent properly, our countries would be able to achive so much more. I didn’t know that Canada had the problem, too. It is well known that it is rampant in the US.

          • Sylvia H. says:

            Barbara, that sort of corruption is worse in some places than others. Unfortunately, Quebec seems to be cursed with it the worst. However, there may well be a whole lot going on right under my nose that I know nothing about!

            Nancy, what was going on that someone was trying to pin on the premier, Jean Charest? In How the Light Gets In, when they found the premier pulling the strings in the background, it didn’t surprise me nearly as much as it did the characters. Armand was shocked – it is shocking, but not surprising. I went to live in the province of Quebec in 1952 and left in 1967, living in Sherbrooke, Montreal and Chateauguay during those years. But there’s all kinds of different scandals going on in the Ontario government, which my daughter has told me about. It’s just that the kind of construction fraud seems particularly prevalent in Quebec. Does that seem a fair assessment, Nancy?

          • Sylvia H. says:

            Barbara and Nancy, in today’s paper there was an article about the findings of a commission into corruption in the construction industry in Quebec. It was headed by a judge named France Charbonneau and the headline quoted her saying “Quebecers must work together to root out corruption.” That, of course, is a lot easier said than done, especially when the Mafia is involved, as it clearly is. But the issue of cracks in the Ville Marie Tunnel and in the Champlain Bridge in How the Light Gets In was very close to the truth. It wouldn’t surprise me if some involved would kill to keep the public from finding out, but it was really scary to think the Surete would be involved. That book was very disturbing, no wonder with all that happened to our beloved Armand and Jean Guy that we were an emotional wreck by the end! Then the last chapter brought such joy! I think it was incredibly brave of Louise to write about the corruption and make such a case for it going all the way to the Premier. It reminded me of the Watergate Scandal, which in the end went all the way to the President. It makes you wonder how much more wickedness is going on undiscovered!

  12. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    I just voted in the semifinals. Rah! Louise.

  13. Barbara H. Johnson says:

    Quite an assortment of books included in the semi-finalist on Good-Reads site. Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes was a no-go for me. I read the first 25 or so pages then some in the middle and the ending. I just couldn’t get into it although I’ve enjoyed most of his books. His previous book wasn’t a favorite either. Must just be my taste changing.
    I was surprised to see Alan Bradley’s The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches listed. The books in this series are always fun to read. I love reading about the English girl, the same age as I would have been, and Gladys, her bicycle and her scientific experiments. In no way would I consider them equal to LP’s books.
    Another listed is Janet Evanovich’s Top Secret Twenty-One. I laugh till tears stream down my face at the antics of the characters but the plots are never as involved as LP’s. I consider them and Bradley’s books to be light cozies.
    Of course they are all mysteries and belong in that category but what a difference.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      When I voted, I just picked Louise’s book because, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just the best. But I wonder what criteria other people are using when they vote. Is there any attempt to assess the value of the writing, or is it simply a popularity contest? Paul, do you know?

      • Anna says:

        Simply based on the fact that you can choose any book and don’t have to actually read any of them then the contest is not judged on the writing at all. It is purely and simply a popularity contest. I want Louise to win but I find it interesting that she is not really that well known broadly. I have introduced Canadian friends to the joy of Three Pines and mention her regularly to other friends that may enjoy her work. I did not know her work until I stumbled across it by accident.

  14. Paul Hochman says:

    Not entirely sure, Sylvia.

    • Sylvia H. says:

      Well, I think what really matters is that Louise is building up a solid reputation for her well-written books, and even in my small town, her name is getting known. New people tell me they have started to read her books. Peter Robinson had written over 20 books before I even heard of him, and it was through an article in a magazine called Good Times, which is a Canadian magazine about retirement. Someone had interviewed him. I should write to them and suggest they interview Louise – also they could feature her in the Zoomer Magazine, which is the one associated with CARP (Canadian Association of Retired People). It’s interesting to me, that in our group of devotees, there seem to be only a few Canadians. Louise needs to get better known here. I was told about her by friends and was so delighted that she placed her stories in the Eastern Townships of Quebec because I had lived there, and the area has a lot of fond memories for me.

      • Barbara H. Johnson says:

        What a great idea. I’ll do the same for AARP , for those 50+ . I’ll try to find out about other publications like that in the US and contact them. You really hit on something I think.
        Off for a daytrip with a senior group today. Going to the Raptor center at a college in a nearby town.

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