The Bistro

The Bistro

The Bistro Banner
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.

3,650 replies on “The Bistro”


Detective Inspector Robbie Fox stomped his feet and wondered, not for the first time, whether it was actually possible to get frostbite in Britain despite wearing his best walking boots. His wife, Caroline, had bought them for Christmas five years ago and up until now they had served him well in most of the weather Abbottsby could muster but they had never met snow before. Seriously, it was hardly the Scottish HIghlands but this morning it may as well of been.
The Inspector cast envious glances at the fur-topped apres boots sported by his DS, the ever practical Toni Collie, who was conversing happily with the local pathologist. She looked ever so warm in her hooded ski jacket and waterproof gloves as she chatted to young Dr Morgan Ngige. Fox shoved his own aching fingers deeper in o the pockets of his Barbour jacket and sniffed loudly. The cold was making his nose drip in a very unattractive manner. He dragged a handkerchief out and wiped the offending nostril quickly before returning his hand, and the hanky, to his pocket.
Toni strode over to his side and looked at her boss with concern.
“What on earth are you doing out in this weather without gloves?”
“I had gloves. They are in the Rover.”
“Is it locked? Give me your keys and I’ll fetch them for you,” Collie offered, holding out a hand snuggly wrapped in ski gloves.
Fox winced. “Thanks but there’s no point. They got wet when I was clearing snow off the windshield. I was too tired to put the car away in the garage last night. No-one told me this was going to happen.”
Collie wasn’t sure if he meant the murder or the snow storm but she suspected both. The DI’s old leather gloves were barely adequate for a normal winter and they were definitely not appropriate in the current conditions. Best they get on with things she decided and get back to somewhere warm.
“Adult male in his mid fifties. Driver’s licence gives his name as Reginald Dunn with an address on Old Crowley Road.”
Fox raised an eyebrow and looked over at the corpse. Collie knew what he was thinking.
“I know. His appearance doesn’t really match the address. The overcoat he is wearing is shiny and worn and his shoes have been resoled.”
“A rich eccentric in well loved clothes he can’t bear to part with?” supposed Fox although he didn’t believe it.
“Even so, what is he doing in the Middens and who would want to stab old Reggie and leave him to bleed to death in the street? If he was a twenty something looking to score drugs or do a dodgy deal then I could understand it. My guess is someone twigged that he was dressing down and we will find this is a robbery gone wrong.”
They both glanced around as if the answer was to be found in the surrounding landscape. The Middens was the local name for the old worker’s cottages that lapped at the edges of the nearby council estate. The area was dank and crumbling and not a place the police entered happily. There were no front yards, just overflowing bins and rusting cars, although the worst was hidden under a clean new blanket of snow so that the street looked almost presentable. There were no working street lamps in the near vicinity but the crime scene manager had organised portable floods so there was just one pool of light illuminating the scene like a stage in a darkened theatre.
“Anything helpful to be found or do we have to wait for the sun to come up and the snow to melt?”
“First on scene say the body was covered in snow and there were no footprints nearby. None. They couldn’t even tell which direction Reggie was coming from. No weapon has been found but we are looking.”
“What time did it start snowing?”
“The patrol officers tell me it began a couple of hours before midnight and it was still falling heavily when the call came in. We are lucky it has eased up. They are trying to get a tent up over the body but the van carrying it slid into a ditch on the way here. In the meantime DC Boddin is overseeing the search and we are waiting on extra bodies for the door to door.”
Police were rarely welcome in The Middens and there would not be a warm hello and a cup of tea for anyone knocking on doors and rousing the citizens before daybreak in this neighbourhood. Fox was not keen to be around when that started. He doubted they would get any useful information, they would be lucky to get a civil word.
“Does Ngige have a time of death?”
“A little tricky with the frosty coating but he thinks it was probably around the same time the snow started falling. In fact he measured the snow depth on the back of the corpse and compared it to what was on the ground nearby and they were consistent. Six hours ago is a rough guess.”
“Not a lot we can do here. What say you and I take a trip to Crowley Road?” ventured Fox, thinking longingly of the heated seats in the Land Rover and the 24 hour cafe on the main road which served surprisingly decent coffee and excellent bacon butties.

Ohboyohboyohboy! I would LOVE to read more of Fox and Collie! We’re here if you need any “early readers” or proof-readers, Anna! (jumping up and down).

If you have unusually cold weather for any length of time, just leave the water on at a trickle – the movement also stops it from freezing until it gets REALLY cold – think rivers – they do freeze, but not at the same temperatures as ponds.

Another thing that Canadians do is not have much of the pipes on outside walls of the house – of course, the water must come INTO the house from outside, but you shouldn’t run them inside on the outer walls, which can get very cold. My parents, living in Fort Erie, where it didn’t get very cold very often, and in an old house, had all their upstairs bathroom plumbing on the outside wall, and very little insulation in their house, so it would freeze often until they started leaving the water on at a trickle almost all the time in winter.

Hi, Peg. I agree. Keep talking, Fox and Collie. Can’t wait to learn what they are up to now.
I haven’t read much in months. Even Rita Mae Brown and her Sneaky Pie mysteries couldn’t interest me. I love them because the cats and dog talk to each other and try to steer her in the right direction to slove a mystery. The first book was Murder She Purred and was made into a movie for TV…Murder She Meowed. I do like mysteries with dogs and cats. Here’s hoping I’m ready to read whenTGR appears. I think I will be.
A huge 4th of July Celebration is bein held at Ft.Gordon tonight. Free to the public. Thunderstorms are forcast but I hope they hold off. I won’t be attending but think it a wonderful event for the military families as well as everyone else.
Julie, I had wondered how pipes were kept from freezing in extreme cold. Interesting solution. We just wrap newspaper around any exposed outdoor pipes and faucets. Not much help I wonldn’t think in very low temps.

Hi, Barbara, I love Rita Mae Brown’s books, both the Mrs. Murphy series and the Sister Jane Arnold foxhunting ones. I have read all of them starting from the first with each. I especially love how Inky the fox and Diana the foxhound like to chat. The latest two Murphy ones that go back and forth between colonial and present Virginia have been great for me. Definite character development.

I just started rereading the Murphys and it is sad for me to realize how some of the interesting early characters are no longer mentioned in the newer ones. Not every mystery reader’s cup of tea but definitely mine.

Wow Barbara…that program does sound intriguing. I love wondering about the world around us. I laughed when you said US history was boring in College. Most people I know find Australian history as taught at school very tedious. It isn’t…there is a lot in there but they tend to focus on the same stuff over and over and it is very dry. Maybe it is similar to the phenomena that is rear to visit local tourist attractions but we rush to do that when we visit somewhere new. Complacency with the familiar perhaps. I too have developed an interest in Canadian history since reading Louise’s books.
My water woes appear to be all solved thanks to Blake the plumber. He was covered in mud after crawling under the house but he was wearing a CSI set of overalls so that helped. Must have been cold though. He asked after my Dad who he remembered from the time he was here before which had to have been 18 mths to two years ago. It was almost worth the drama to have a chat to such a nice person.
It doesn’t normally get so cold anywhere in Australia that would justify heating the pipes but it is a prolonged cold spell. When I say cold -5 at night. That was common when I grew up in the country and I don’t remember our pipes having problems. The puddle would freeze and water in the garden hose. Even so, the plumber indicated they were having a few people with similar issues.
Another day of cold and glorious sunshine. I wrote some more last night. Fox and Collie have been chatty. I don’t think it is a short story…a short novel more like.

Barbara – your thoughts about the gun issue here pretty much hits the nail on the head, I think. Since I come from another country, where guns are banned except for hunting, it seems odd to me to find the average person wanting a hand gun for protection, and a big part of me still says that shouldn’t be, but I am a realist. It really is a fair interpretation of the second amendment that every citizen has a right to protect themselves with firearms. But how that has extrapolated into everyone needing an assault rifle is beyond me. But I think we all know where I stand, hahaha – no point in repeating it.

I love the Creation Story idea, Barbara – I’m sure that was very interesting. And Anna – how interesting that you will have relatives to look up at Arlington. I have just gone to look for “women at Arlington Cemetery ” and found that there are many more than I would have supposed, and that there is a walking tour you can do to see the sites of notable women buried there, plus a museum dedicated to women in the military. If I were there, I’d drag you to that, hahaha.

Like Anna, I do think that Gamache has to be involved in actual detective work, too – so maybe that’s where Jean Guy will be a kind of liaison, in that he will often come to Gamache to help him with cases… Of course, there’s nothing stopping Lacoste from doing that, too. He’s been such a great mentor to them both.

Anna – I hope your water woes are far behind you – that was always an issue for my parents in Canada – I usually lived places much colder than they did, where they had taken measures to be sure water pipes couldn’t freeze, but my parents tried to stay in the warmer climes in Canada, and therefore, the odd freeze would do damage. It always seemed odd to me that, since they knew how to stop water pipes from freezing in 40 degrees below zero, why couldn’t they use the same techniques to stop it in 5 below? I guess cost – the way to do it for the colder places is to wrap it in, basically, an electric blanket that is on at a very low setting all the winter long. Not enough to heat the water, but enough to stop the freezing. There must be an electrical bill associated with that, that they thought they could avoid – but I’d have thought that the small amount of electricity would be offset by the savings of not having to make repairs, never mind the inconvenience.

Julie, You summed up what I was thinking about Gamache. I think The Great Reckoning will be the final cleansing of the Surete. When the young policeman was so rude to Gamache, I thought then…they need you, Gamache.
Like you I wonder what is in Guy’s future. Good things I hope.
There is just something comforting about hold a book and reading. It cloudy here today and a little cool. Just perfect for reading .

And the good news is that the plumber is here and the offending ruptured pipe has been found. With any luck we will have water for dinner. It has been interesting without running water but not really. I turned it on briefly and filled the sink and the kettle and the water in the fridge so we weren’t suffering as long as I could have my tea!
My Uncle, by marriage, just told me his sister, brother in law and he thought his mother, were buried in Arlington cemetery so I have some work to do. I found Grave Finder and there is an app so I can go and look. I think I have found his sister and her husband but not his mum. I will send Peter to take photos as my Uncle is not young and due for surgery in a month. I would like to get photos for him before then.

Gravefinder can be a great help. An unexpected coincidence. A course in American History should prove to be interesting. I have to confess that I found the subject boring in college. All I could focus on then was Greek and Roman history. I have read many books on US history since then but focus mainly on european history. Since beginning the Gamache series, I have been reading Canadian history.
As I have mentioned before, Sam watches programs on TV that deal with Space Aliens visiting Earth, etc. Recently on Aliens there was a very interesting program about the stories of Creation as a part of their oral tradition. It was an excellent presentation and the Elder who told the stories was an impressive speaker. Sam had recorded it for me to watch.

I think you have touched on an interesting thing Barbara. There is a different relationship between people, states and federal government in the US that isn’t the same here. It is fascinating. I do look forward to understanding US history….perhaps I will find a course to do. Not on line, but with real people. I shall look.
I agree that there is a teaching role for Armand but he needs to be investigating too. That could be incidental to his role or part of it. I do love Therese. I love how she came to the Surete!
Dramas here…think a water pipe has broken with the freezing temps. I have called plumber but I can’t find the problem, I can just hear it. I was wandering around the house and the garden at 4 am trying to track it down and eventually shutting off the water. The Stars were amazing as the night was clear and cold which was an unexpected joy! -4 deg C. I had to put the electric blanket on when I got back to bed. Still, a small issue with what is happening in the world.

Anna – books really CAN be comforting, can’t they? Apart from those I re-read over and over, I’m trying very hard not to buy paper and cardboard books – but stick to the Kindle versions, for storage’s sake. But not everything you want is on Kindle, and some MUST be admired for their tactile properties… So I’d never be able to do without bookcases. You’ll have to buy at least one while you’re in the US – you can find affordable ones at IKEA, or you could scour garage and estate sales once you’re here…

I see Gamache as being right back into things with the Surete – but on a different plane – teaching. I’ve always felt that was his best skill – and the one foremost in his mind as he went along. His encounter with the young police recruits who were so ill-trained in Nature of the Beast convinced me that they really need him. Hopefully, with his friend, Thérèse Brune in charge, he has been persuaded to head up the training division. I really don’t know even what to hope for for Beauvoir – I think he’s not going to climb up the ladder now – but I think he is such a good detective, I can’t see him doing anything else. Then again – he was most effective as part of that particular team that Gamache headed – and he loves Gamache so much, maybe he would be good with him… Then again, maybe he can get back on track to advance within the department…

I tried to post a short history of Americans and guns. I soon realized “short” was impossible. I know that we view gun ownership in a way that is very different from many. People should have never been allowed to purchase assault weapons. They are made only to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. They are not used for hunting. I don’t have the time to research how it came to be. I’m sure it would only serve to upset me.
I do know that we will not give up our right to bear arms. We would never trust the government that completely. Besides the criminals and haters would not give up theirs. I have never shot a gun but I have sat with one in my hand for protection. Civil unrest by people who hate you without knowing you and hate you only because of the color of your skin is more frightening than I can say.

Anna, how wonderful that you plan to involve yourself with real Americans. My English friend did just that. Her husband came to work at the Medical College. The local British expats welcomed them and wanted to include them in all of their activities. She made the decision to get to know Augustans. She got involved in many arts and cultural activities and has enjoyed living here. The wives of the medical officers at Ft. Gordon did the same. I enjoyed getting to know them and appreciated their volunteering when I was with Historic Augusta and also when I lead the docents at three local sites. The book club idea sounds perfect. I’m happy for you.

Awwww. That’s me Julie. I love hugs and I am a very huggable in my possum and merino jumper….so soft and warm. It needs to be. The sun has little warmth in it today. It’s a proper winter alright.
I did some writing last night….still puddling along. Very pleased to see Louise is getting great reviews. I have a Kindle copy on preorder and Pete will get a real live one at the function he is going to. Apart from Louise I am not buying books for a while…..nothing against books but we won’t have much space for them in Arlington. Pete has one bookshelf for his reference materials and that is about it.
I must say, the houses we looked at that had furniture had a distinct lack of books and it quite put me off. They are so warm and welcoming to me. From where I sit I can see hundreds of them…literally! Oh dear, I have changed my mind in the space of a paragraph…maybe I will need another bookcase and I might just have to buy some books. It won’t feel like home otherwise!
Now…I feel like thinking about A Great Reckoning…what character development will we see? There will be changes for Armand but what will that mean for his beautiful wife? And Jean Guy? I do worry about him so. He is more fragile than most but I think his core is building up quite nicely now he is settled. Shall we see more of Clara and her trek into single adulthood as it weren’t?
What do we think?

Anna – you are one of the most huggable people I know! Thanks for your kind words of encouragement.

And that is the best news of all! I am so glad Julie. We have talked so much lately about being afraid to reveal ourselves because we fear rejection. Happens everyday doesn’t it, not just in the Bistro. And yet, being accepted for who we are is vital for our happiness in big and small ways.
What I loved about Louise’s video recently was knowing how wonderful she is and how accepted and embraced she is and yet she has revealed her darkness to us. We love her all the more because she battles everyday and, not just survives, but thrives.
Another example is the pop artist Adele who has dreadful stage fright. She also doesn’t like flying. She is one of the most successful artists ever and yet she has real challenges doing what she has to do. She also talks about her desire to have a normal life and be a normal person, married and raising a son, while in the public eye. She is so young but doing a good job in circumstances that are actually really difficult in this age of celebrities being ‘owned’ by the public. Yet she seems very genuine and giving despite her desire for privacy.
I do admire people who are open and giving of themselves and do it with good grace, while like you Julie I struggle to express myself and my needs to those right near me. I shall be like Dory…..Just keep trying, just keep trying….

And good for you making a decision about the holiday. I think it is more than reasonable to skip the trip given the situation. I am not one for walks in the heat so I totally understand where you are coming from. A summer trip is very different to an autumn one.

Thanks, Anna. And, because they are my real friends, they DID understand… all is well. Thank you for the very wise advice.

I do like all the things we talk about here. Remember decluttering….I cleared two garbage bags of clothes and shoes from my cupboard tonight. A small but positive step!! The fact that we have been discussing it really prompted me to get on and do something.

I know exactly your dilemma Julie and I can’t pretend I am as brave as the following advice but this is what I would like to do in that situation.
Firstly, friends are people who should respect you and your choices and good friends should understand you so they should appreciate what you like to do and your concerns.
Secondly, there is more than one problem here that may need addressing. These are your friends but it doesn’t sound like their activities are what you want to do. That is fine if they are happy for you to laze at the house while they take long walks on the beach and that can be done without you feeling left out in any way. It doesn’t sound as though the concerns you have are clear between you all…I don’t think they are hearing the problem about wanting to come home early. So do you want to go if you could stay in the house and read books or have the odd walk IF you want to? Would you want to go if you are driving there and back given your eyes etc and part of the fun is being in the car together? Even if the answer is yes to both, do you really want to go at all?
Ideally you should be able to sit with your friends in a calm moment and say I need to get something off my chest. This is who I am and what I like to do…ie read not walk, be organised and come home at the planned time. I am comfortable to stay home while you walk and I am happy to drive myself if you would rather stay and come back later but you are my friends and ideally I would travel with you, but I need to be clear about our plans so I can get home in daylight.
You don’t have to be aggressive and you don’t have justify yourself you just have to explain clearly that these are your concerns.
So much easier on paper but at the end of the day you have to be happy in your choices. You deserve to be respected in a friendship but in order to do that the difficult thing is first being comfortable with who we are ourselves and then we don’t feel like we have to justify that in any way because you don’t. Friendships have to be a two way street.
I think I would be like and wanting not to rock the boat or upset anyone but at the end of the day being unhappy in a situation like that would make me grumpy and I would be extra grumpy knowing it was partly my fault for not being clear about my needs. How often have I done that? Lots!
Friends are very important and we don’t want to hurt them but you and your happiness are important too. If you don’t attend to your feelings then the hurt caused by subjugating yourself can make you unhappy with your friends and they won’t even understand why you are mad with them. Been there and done that too!
I hope it helps but I would totally understand if you ignore my opinion!!

Anna – I would never ignore you! I think you are right. I probably made it sound like these friends never consider me, and of course, that’s not true, but I do think I’m not being heard in this instance. I’ve decided not to go, and I’m going to just make my case that the plans for this are really not a good fit for me. Last time was in the fall, when everyone was content to spend a lot of each day stitching indoors and watching the wild weather through the picture windows… but this time, it’s July – and everyone will be wanting to spend so much more time outside. It’s a cute little beach town, and they want to explore – but it’s a 3 mile walk into town, (and another 3 miles back, not to mention walking around in the town) – and I’m just not up to it. We’ve been away together lots of times, and other times I have not felt the pressure to join in – and now, I’d be more than content to stay in and let the others do their roaming, but so many more outdoor activities are being planned this time… which I understand – it’s summer, there’s lots of things going on, and the weather is good and conducive to lots of fun things.

Thank you, Anna – I wish I could tell them this in person, but we all live so far apart that the next time we were going to see each other was at this retreat, so I will just have to do it on email and then we can phone if they want to talk more personally. I feel lighter for having made this decision.

I need advice. I can’t figure out what to do. I have three friends with whom I spend quite a bit of time (and I don’t have a lot of friends – more a few close friends than a lot of friendly acquaintances). We are set to go out of town together for a “beach retreat” in a couple of weeks, staying at my friend Becky’s beach house in Oregon. Last time we did that, we were supposedly going to leave for home “after lunch”. I was packed and ready to go before lunch so I would not hold anyone up. We had lunch, then people just kind of lazed around, and finally, mid-afternoon, the others started to “think about packing up”… I had figured I’d be home by 6 p.m., and Vern was expecting me. We got on the road, and of course, because we’d waited so long, ran into traffic (the traffic in Washington can be the worst you’ve ever seen) – a 3 hour trip became a 6 hour trip – it was really quite late at night when we got home, and then I had to make dinner… The whole time in that car, I was stewing.

So, when we made our plans this time I said that I wanted to make sure we got away early enough not to run into traffic. And of course, yesterday, someone says – “we should get our plans set – we will be there til after lunch on Monday…” – I said I thought we’d decided to leave earlier… and people have said they don’t want to just get up in the morning and rush around to leave. They think the traffic will be better, because it’s a Monday instead of a Sunday (maybe they’re right – who knows – that traffic is unpredictable – I do know that it’s awful on Fridays). So I said that I should just drive myself that way I can leave when I want and nobody else has to be rushed. And of course, now there are choruses of “oh, no, you don’t want to drive by yourself – the traffic won’t be bad – and we had a storm last time, which we won’t have this time – why don’t you make something up ahead of time so you don’t have to cook when you get home”…

I’m really angry with them – and upset about this. I don’t even want to go now, but I know if I say that, it sounds very passive-aggressive, which I hate, and these are my friends – I don’t want bad feelings between us. But I feel like I am always the one who has to “suck it up”. I don’t think my solution was a hardship on anyone, and I think my reasons for leaving at a decent time are as valid as anyone else’s reason for wanting to linger. I often feel like the “odd man out”, because I’m not a very physically active person, and everyone else is always going for long walks and geo-caching, etc., which I have no interest in, and they’re always saying”come with us… you’ll enjoy it” when I know I won’t. And I know the time at the beach will be lots of long walks and things, which is really not me. I’d rather be curled up with a book or my stitching.

So… I really want to beg off, but I don’t want it to cause hard feelings. Beyond coming down with a cold or something right before, I can’t think of a graceful way to get out of it.

You are absolutely right Julie….I haven’t seen anyone toting guns on the streets of Rosslyn….thank goodness. Maybe it’s like snakes in Australia…they are dangerous and closer than you think but you don’t see them that often!

I love the discussion of the origin of words and phrases. We have a show called Letters and Numbers….well it’s not in production now but when it was they did a lot of discussion about such things. It was fascinating.

Freezing here…literally but the sun is out and shining. I see there are terrible floods in West Virginia and fires in the West and south.. Be careful everyone and hopefully the weather is calm where ever you are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *