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”

I’m thinking about all your comments and can’t just pick one. When murder happens, I want to know why. What drove that person to believe that murder was the only way. I love Ruth. She is a host of contradictions. Is there anywhere that we can get Marilyn Plessner’s book of poetry?

“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.”

You made me very sad to think that is your opinion of the majority of police officers. I come from a family of cops…father, brother, husband, 2 uncles, 2 cousins. I believe you are wrong; I know you are wrong. It would be impossible to make a successful career of policing without a knowledge of human nature and the human condition, the study of “what makes us tick”. Too many times I watched some of those same cops come home with tears in their eyes from grief at the day’s events. Their humanity was not turned off when they put on their uniforms or suits.

I hope that one day you will meet cops like the ones I knew/know and loved who could help to change your assessment.

I agree. My late husband was a police sergeant and I know he cared. His troops also knew it–one of them is writing me a book and gave me an advanced copy. I hadn’t known some of the stories…some funny and some were life lessons he’d passed on to them. Reading the Three Pines series brings a bit of him back to me.

I understood this to mean that Louise thinks it is unusual to have a cop as a main character in a book, who cares – not that this is something she believes.

Yes, I believe this was the intent of her comment also. I also belive this attitude is why these stories are so good.

I was initially taken aback by her last sentence as well. I do believe it was a sentence structure error. Hopefully someone reads these comments and will respond.

I believe that it is unusual to project a main character in a book, as a father figure as Gamache was to Jean Guy; or a main character’s capacity to care for the guilty as well as the innocent as with Gamache’s long-time childhood friend who he brings back into the fold of the Surete to try to save his friend’s soul. A huge leap of faith. As the main character in the books, it is unusual that Gamache cares so deeply for his enemies as well as his friends. I think it is unusual that a main character actually care for his enemies to the point of wanting to save them. Just a thought…

I believe she has met a real cop…. Armand is simply the same as your family members. I too was a cop for 41 years. He is real. Glamorized a little but Louise has earned that right.

Thanks for your comment about police. Sometimes it is hard to think there is empathy when we have the racial killings by police in USA that reflects their fear and power. but many times they show their courage and compassion as well. I know when our police face a school shooting, it leaves a mark on their souls for a very long time.
I love Gamache because he cares deeply and uses his knowledge of the heart to solve the case.

My brother-in-law, a “cop” in North Carolina, USA, has given me insight into the personalities of the law enforcement crew. When he retired, his co-cops said this about him: “When he arrived on the scene,we knew things were going to turn out all right.” What a tribute. It showed his humanity, and his understanding of humanity. We need our cops. God bless the good ones.

Louise clearly stated, “… it is deeply unusual to have a MAIN CHARACTER, a cop, who is endlessly interested in people.” I trust that is not her opinion of actual police personnel.

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.”
Linda, I do believe Louise Penny is saying that it is unusual to have a ‘main character, a cop’… Who cares. She is referring to fictitious cops, characters in other novels not those in real life. Louise writes about corruption within the Sûreté because she needs antagonists, however she also writes very highly of the Sûreté in all their positive light as well.

Ruth has always struck a chord with me. I even have the “I’m FINE” coffee mug! One of the things I most appreciate about the people of 3 Pines is their depth. They are flawed, they struggle, they want to do the right thing, but don’t always succeed. The best people I know aren’t perfect, they just keep trying to be better. That is 3 Pines, to me.

I often wondered it you wrote Ruth’s poetry or if you found it somewhere so I was thrilled to read the comment about the poem. I am not usually a reader of poetry but I think Ruth’s poems are brilliant and I think your writing is brilliant and often wondered if you were also a brilliant poet. Thank you so much for your wonderful stories. They have enticed me to play a trip to Quebec for this summer to look up some of the locals.

I’m in the process of rereading the series and I love these excerpts. Keep them coming…

I absolutely love this series of thoughts from your writings…brings back memories and clearer understanding of the tiniest of lines…”frost filling in the heart”…and, Ruth.. .hurt beyond repair, but loving in her own way

Frost on the windows. I remember making baby feet with the side of my curled up hand. Love the annotated comments!

I had totally forgotten those sweet little toes. Etched in my very cold upstairs bedroom in Michigan. 70 years ago. So grateful you tapped my brain in that hidden place.

It’s interesting that you waited until the winter to write this book in order to be in that “space”. I find that I buy the books and wait until late fall/early winter to read them so that I can feel as though I am there, with the snow and cold enveloping my home while I am inside, tucked under a blanket.

Louise, you are such a splendid writer! Thank you for sharing insights about the scenes you write.

I love to read your excerpts from your , you think, you would remember everything, but , if you read for the first time, it’s like Evelyn Wood teaching how to read fast , second time, I don’t gobble, I read like a lady, proper and slow, hoping to retain so I love little tid bits ,they kick my memory, thank you for rebooting

The insights inside your writing – so like your books, so personal. And I love that you made Ruth a poet too.

I’m reading “Dead Cold”again and getting reacquainted with my Three Pines peeps. The frost on the window reminds me of my childhood. Such chilly images. Keep them coming.

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