The Annotated Three Pines: A Fatal Grace

The Annotated Three Pines: A Fatal Grace

Annotated Three Pines

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From Pg. 13
Back home Peter stared out the window, willing himself to get up and do something constructive. Go into the studio, work on his painting. Just then he noticed the frost had been shaved off one of the panes. In the shape of a heart. He smiled and put his eye to it, seeing Three Pines going about its gentle business. Then he looked up, to the rambling old house on the hill. The old Hadley house. And even as he looked the frost began to grow, filling in the heart with ice.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I deliberately started writing A FATAL GRACE in the winter, knowing it would help to be surrounded by all these details of a bitterly cold Quebec. The snow, the ice, are obvious….but details like the creeping frost can be forgotten. This also sets up, early on, the continuing theme in the series, of contrast. The heart filled with ice.


From Pg. 13
‘Oh, yes. Each has a purpose. For instance, a Rasta man is great when he’s hard, but not a book.’ Clara had laughed. They shared a disdain for hard books. Not the content, but the cover. Hardcovers were simply too hard to hold, especially in bed. ‘Unlike a Rasta man,’ said Myrna.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ha – had forgotten this passage. Myrna – what a scamp. But must say, I have not changed my mind about hardcovers. Love owning them…but I read in bed, often lying on my side, snuggled in. A hardcover can be a struggle.


From Pg. 22
Normally Ruth’s slim volumes of poetry were slipped to an oblivious public following a launch at the bistro in Three Pines. But something astounding had happened. This elderly, wizened, bitter poet from Three Pines had won the Governor-General’s Award. Surprised the hell out of everyone. Not because she didn’t deserve it. Clara knew her poems were stunning. Who hurt you once so far beyond repair that you would greet each overture with curling lip? It was not always so.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ahhhh – love this poem. It’s by Marilyn Plessner, from a book self published by her friend after her death. I’m so happy I made, by some miracle, Ruth a poet. Again, contrast. The embittered elderly poet, with such insight into the human heart (sometimes filled with frost), and human condition. Later in the series, as you might know, we find out who hurt her once, ‘so far beyond repair…’


From Pg. 154
The bistro was his secret weapon in tracking down murderers. Not just in Three Pines, but in every town and village in Quebec. First he found a comfortable café or brasserie, or bistro, then he found the murderer. Because Armand Gamache knew something many of his colleagues never figured out. Murder was deeply human, the murdered and the murderer.

Louise’s Thoughts:
This is something I believe – that forensics are vital, of course, and Gamache does not ignore them, but honestly, writing about blood spatter patterns or DNA does not interest me. The emotions of the killer, and the emotions the dreadful act uncovers, are what drive the books. And drives Gamache. But I knew, even as I wrote that, that it is deeply unusual to have a main character, a cop, who is endlessly interested in people. Who cares.


From Pg. 166
‘She’s a librarian and she was saying in her experience when people use capital letters it’s because the letters stand for something. Your title is I’m FINE with the FINE in capitals.’ ‘She has brains, your wife. She’s the first to notice that, or at least to ask. FINE stands for Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Egotistical. I’m FINE.’

Louise’s Thoughts:
I belong to a 12 step program, which saved my life, and I’m FINE is one of the phrases you often hear ‘in the rooms’, though I did change it slightly to fit Ruth. I love how many people respond to this phrase,and recognize themselves. As I recognize myself! One of the great joys of writing Ruth is her degree of self-awareness. She’s embittered and angry and loving and brilliant. And she can laugh at herself. She is FINE. And so am I. You too?

69 replies on “The Annotated Three Pines: A Fatal Grace”

The description of frost on windows brings back such vivid memories of growing up in northern Quebec and waking up to frost ‘scenes’ on my bedroom window and picking them apart with fingernails. Can’t wait for A Better Man to continue the series!

I am a black person who longs to live in 3 Pines. This makes me wonder where your character of Myrna came from. Your decision gives me joy and a sense of inclusion within this wonderful community of friends.

Sylvia, I’m not black but the presence of Myrna also gives me immense pleasure!! I AM a therapist, and I did grow up in a largely black neighborhood in San Francisco. I love that Myrna is in three Pines!

Your reflections on certain passages makes them even more meaningful than just reading alone. I appreciate the characters you write. And that the story revolves around emotions, motives and relationships is much more satisfying than relying on the forensic facts.
I have always read in bed. And now I listen there as well with audiobooks. It’s very satisfying to cocoon around a great story. Thank you for these insights.

I also have the ” I’m FINE” coffee mug… It reminds me it is ok to be FINE. Also was moved by the lines, Who hurt you once- you have a wonderful gift Louise and thank you for sharing it with us and letting us know none of us is beyond repair!

I have always thought of the weather, especially the harshness of the winters you describe, as another character in your books

I retrieved the first 4 books from my daughter’s apartment this past week-end when I was there to babysit her dog-plan to start reading again from the start to be ready for A Better Man

I love to read detective fiction from outside of the USA because most seem to focus on the personality/psychology of the criminal and victim and less on the “forensics”- Gamache is one such as these who think more about all aspects of the “crime”

Each book of the series expands the characters and gives you a window into their hearts. The various themes run through the whole series like a wonderful symphony, each character having their ow music. I hear it in my head and I read it in the meter and choice of words that Louise uses. How delightful to have such intriguing characters running around in your head all of the time! Each character has a foil (though you may not discover that until you have read a few of the books), and there is always a wonderful point/counterpoint between characters.

Fatal Grace was the first Three Pines book in the series I read. I absolutely loved the characters and thought the writing brilliant.
Over time I started reading the entire series a second time but skipped this one. I found it too disturbing. I knew of a similar (though not as severe) family where the mother treated a daughter cruelly. When I started reading the series for a third time I made myself read it and the beauty of the story was revealed to me. Now it’s one of my favorites. It was the First “first edition” I bought. I now have the entire series in hardback first editions.
Hard backs are difficult for me to hold in bed too so I have all the books on my kindle also.

I am reading the series for the second time. We were in Quebec last year and toured the Morin Center. The books have come to life so much more after that that I had to revisit with all the characters.

Your explanations of why you wrote about certain things adds so much to the depth and enjoyment of the books. Thank you!!!

Imagine that line of “Ruth’s” coming from a self published book. So close to being unknown and forgotten. It really is Ruth in a nutshell isn’t it. It reminds me of a saying from “the rooms” of a sister 12 step program I am in. Hurting people hurt people.

Through reading your rationale for writing certain words/passages, I want to re-read the books, knowing what these particular passages meant to you, Louise. I’m FINE, I’ve used many times!

I recommend your books to everyone I know! Have only had a few bites. So much more than a mystery! I’m in love with Gamache and have started wearing Sacred Sandalwood essential oil!

I am truly enjoying Louise’s thoughts!! Looking forward to each. What a grand idea. Thank you!!

Like Gamache and you, I too am more interested in the human aspects of the crime. What is it that drives someone to kill a fellow human. I love how you unfold that mystery in your books.

I love to know your reasons for writing what you do, and wish there was a 3 Pines in Maine, look forward to every one of your books!

” The emotions of the killer, and the emotions the dreadful act uncovers, are what drive the books. And drives Gamache. But I knew, even as I wrote that, that it is deeply unusual to have a main character, a cop, who is endlessly interested in people. Who cares.”

And that is the main reason I love this series, Louise!

The verse “Who hurt you once so far beyond repair that you would greet each overture with curling lip? It was not always so.” really hit me. I could relate to it.

I love 3 Pines. It’s a comforting, healing place.

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