The Bistro

The Bistro

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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.

3,660 replies on “The Bistro”

I’ve been thinking of some of the people and places we were wondering would appear in the next novel, TNOTB, when we were discussing TLWH. Some were: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Inspector Stewart, Bean, Nichole, and Chartrand. I’m sure Bean will return. Chartrand ? Didn’t trust him .

I don’t trust, or like, Chartrand, either, Barbara. I’m sure Bean will be back, maybe when she?’s a little older. And Nichole – I miss her. I hope she comes back – she totally redeemed herself in HTLGI I think.

Yes, I love the newsletter. Louise is so wonderful about sharing so much of herself and her life. It’s great to see her writing process, as well as how she is coping with an increasingly difficult home life. It breaks my heart, at the same time as it lifts me up.

Dear Julie, I am not at all surprised that what happened to your Aunt gave you real fears about what could happen to you, actually whether you looked like her or not. There is still so much we don’t understand about mental illness and our methods for dealing with it have at times been nothing short of barbaric. One of the biggest challenges in treating mental illness has been to overcome the stigma surrounding it.

I am glad you read the link I posted. Imposter syndrome cripples so many of us. Remind me about it when I panic about releasing my next novel into the ether. If there is one thing I want to teach my daughter is not that she can do anything, but that she is perfectly capable of doing the things she is doing. If she believes that then she has a great foundation to attempt whatever else takes her fancy. It’s never too late to develop a greater belief in yourself.

I thought Anne Perry’ father being a physicist and involved in making an atomic bomb was another curious parallel with TNOTB. I can imagine it is also a source of her pondering evil and good. The creation of such devices does that.

Rereading my last post Julie, it didn’t come out quite right. I just meant that the the prospect of being put in a mental facility would terrify anyone given the reputation of such places in times gone by!

The movie, Snake Pit, scared everyone I think. The history of mental health facilities in the recent past harks back to the stories of Victorian Times. Our laws, today, are supposed to protect people, especially women, from abuse and vindictive relatives.
It seems all women were considered “crazy” or not in control, or inferior so it was only a small step to lock them away. I love history but would not like to have really lived in the past for many reasons.

Yes -Barbara – when I first understood why it was called a “hysterectomy”, I was appalled… but of course, it’s all too believable. The Snake Pit

Hit the wrong button and my post posted too soon. The Snake Pit WAS very scary, and I’m sure places like Bedlam, etc. were just like that! A place to throw people away.

Oh, no… I know you have been able to see just how crazy I am, hahahaha. No, Anna – I knew what you meant. Yes, looking like her just meant that a lot of my childhood, I was compared to her my aunt, so when this happened, of course, it frightened me a bit, because I was used to thinking of her and I as just alike in lots of ways. And I think we were – we were both the most sensitive of our siblings, I think, and we both saw lots of things going on in the family that we thought weren’t quite right… that’s another long story, but just basically, neither one of us could ever turn a blind eye to injustices, while for the rest of the family that was their modus operandi. It was very much a family full of people very happy for you to go first after them when anything was being given out.

Oh, Anna – that’s so interesting! I have a lot of those traits, and I know it has kept me from doing things. I so wish I could go back and tell my younger self a few things!

I wonder if Ann Perry set her books in historical periods partly for the distance it allows her and the manner of the time providing a gentility to the tone and the setting. I can imagine it was a time of interest to her anyway. She lead a very Bronte like existence in a way, isolation filled with stories, only she had no siblings to live with her in her imaginative worlds. When she found a friend who could she was desperate not to lose her.

I think that’s a very good analysis, Anna – as to why choose Victorian, as well as the comparison to the Bronte’s. I was surprised to read that her father was both a physicist who worked on the British Atomic Bomb, and a rector. Talk about internal conflict! They left this poor girl alone a lot, and it sounds like a very hard life. I have to admit that I’ve always found the boarding school type of rearing to be pretty cold-hearted at the best of times, and while this wasn’t that, it was the same kind of mentality, I think.

Whew. Glad you weren’t worried Julie. I thought it was really interesting particularly with the parallels. There are no coincidences. From what I read Ann had a very personal reason to explore the machinations of what drives us to murder and the nature of evil. There is a biography written about her that could be a good read but it would be better if she wrote it. I can imagine that would be very confronting.
We humans are capable of such much at both extremes of greatness and we can also compartmentalise ourselves, perhaps to protect us from those emotions or those deeds.
I was reading about members of the Nazi SS, many or whom were apparently intelligent and well educated, and how they could slip back into their lives after the war.
Maybe we all have to do this, wall off the bits that we don’t like, or hurt too much or maybe we would never move forward.

Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt is a series I enjoyed for years. Then, I found one book to be uninteresting(I don’t remember which one) and didn’t return. Maybe I’ll try again. I read many Victorian themed novels back then. I have never read any of the Monk series. I usually find stories with amnesiacs frustrating. At one time, the frequency of characters with amnesia in American Soaps was second only to the common cold. I was turned off that story line.

I had no idea of her life before she became Anne Perry the author.

It was interesting to read that her first success was here in the US.

I like the Pitt series, too, Barbara, but again, haven’t read any in years. I don’t know why I stopped, though I think it was because I thought there weren’t any more – there are so very many more than I read that I must have just lost track or something. Interesting about amnesia turning you off – I know what you mean about the soaps – the only other storyline to beat it was the evil twin, hahaha. She treats the amnesia very differently, though – and I think, realistically. But knowing what I know now, thanks to Anna – I’m sure it’s a way of dealing with starting a new life that completely turns its back on the old life. As Anna says – very like Al LePage… Confession time – I had an aunt who was, for a time, in a mental hospital, and I look like this aunt, quite a bit. I spent a lot of my life worrying that someone was going to be able to put me in a mental hospital and leave me there – much like the Snake Pit. I know it can’t really happen anymore, but it still haunts me somewhat, and I think that’s why I’m fascinated with problems like that – such as amnesia. Frances Farmer’s story scared the willies out of me!


Anna, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – Fleming is someone who can spot the “opportunity for betrayal” easily, and sees people only for how he can manipulate them to his own ends. He thinks of others only how he can use them, yet when he is used, he sees it as betrayal… interesting.

Julie, you do know who Ann Perry is don’t you? It’s an interesting story for those who don’t know the background of this author. But if you don’t want to know Julie don’t read any further.

I saw the film Heavenly Creatures years ago, it is 20 yrs old. For those who haven’t seen it and you may not have as it is a New Zealand production, the movie was directed by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings fame) and starred an unknown Kate Winslet as 15 y.o Juliet Hulme. Juliet and her friend Pauline Parker murdered Pauline’s mother. They were convicted and served their sentences. After her release 5 years later, Juliet Hulme changed her identity and her life and became author Ann Perry.
Now there is enough material for a second movie of her life. I can well imagine Ann Perry draws upon that experience for her Monk character, the whole becoming someone else and finding out you were not a good person before. I haven’t read any of her books but I will look.
I see interesting parallels between Perry’s story and TNOTB. Part of the discussion of how the girls came to be murderers revolved around their rich fantasy lives, driven by Perry who had a difficult childhood without much formal education or stability due to her illness, tuberculosis. It made me think of Laurent and his imaginative over excitability (check the work of Polish Psychologist Dabrowski if you want to read about over-excitabilities).
The other parallel was with Al Lepage. The whole notion of reinventing yourself and trying to forget the horror you created in the past. And the fear that the past will find you. Perry talked about that at one stage, how she dreaded what she had done becoming known.

Wow! Anna – I’d had no idea. (Thank you for alerting me ahead of time that I might not want to read the post, but of course, that made me want to read it all the more, hahaha) It doesn’t bother me – that’s not the right word – but it doesn’t make me see Anne Perry as anything less. When you read the books, they’re obviously written by someone intelligent, and someone who has thought a lot about good and evil and the difference. She also seems to know that everyone is capable of murder, given the right circumstances. Her circumstances seem bizarre, but still – rife with the possibility. We think of the serious fantasy lives spurring young people to murder as being pretty modern, but this was in 1954! I will have to find the movie now – that’s fascinating.

In general, I am fine with fictional murder, less so with real murder. I think what Fleming represents to me is all too real, and even though I now know something more about Anne Perry, her characters, and the murders in her books, are very much fictional to me. Odd, when you think that in a lot of ways, it’s the other way around. That Louise (why does she seem like “Louise” to me – I know she deserves my respect, yet she has allowed us into her thought processes so much that I feel that I know her) does not know what it’s like to murder someone and Anne Perry does.

At any rate – you haven’t spoiled anything for me, so no worries. I know I said that I was escaping from the heaviness of Fleming, but I also know that Perry’s books are not light reading – they’re very well researched, and delve pretty deeply into the psyche. Very interesting. What makes for the “relief” for me is that they are set in a very stilted time when people never said things or did things overtly, and so even though awful things are done, they are never couched in that kind of language… I’m not expressing this well, but I think if you read one, you’ll see what I mean. If you read them, start with The Face of a Stranger – how she deals with Monk’s amnesia is amazing.


Rereading one of the betrayal comments I thought this…..

Fleming is watching Cohen talking to his friend who is a guard. It was that friend Adam had given the papers for Fleming’s release to as he was less likely to question them. In that sense Adam was taking advantage of the friendship if it all went wrong and Fleming escaped, then Adam would have betrayed that friendship.
I am sure Fleming has a good nose for potential betrayals as he has committed more than a few.perhaps this section is seeing the world from Fleming’s perspective to give us a glimpse of how he views human interactions.

I don’t remember the section on betrayal, but when I think about that as a general thing surrounding Fleming and his cohorts, I think of the betrayal of Gerald Bull. By that, I mean, that his murder was the result of a betrayal of one or more of the people he’d been working with. It’s fuzzy with me now, and I’ll have to re-read (I’ll be rereading the full book next week, as I know I read it too quickly the first time). Even though I read so slowly, I just didn’t get a lot of these nuances the first time through.

I needed to pull myself away with something else, though, and have rediscovered a favorite author – Anne Perry, who does Victorian era crime stories. She hooked me with the first of her Mr. Monk series because the main character wakes up in the hospital with no memory at all. Her description of the terror he experiences, which eventually subsides to a general foreboding, is really masterful. As the series goes on, Monk rebuilds his life, but never regains his memory, which makes him a different kind of character. What he discovers about his former self, however, fills him with self-loathing, as he realizes what a nasty person he was. In general, I love how he handles it all, and becomes a much gentler, noble person. He goes forward with his career as a police officer, and later as a private detective. Another major character is a woman who was a nurse with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, and this all seems to be very well researched. The series continued for quite a few more books than I knew existed, so I’ve been reading those that are new to me, and enjoying it quite a bit. Since it’s all so long ago, it doesn’t have the overpowering feeling of evil that TNOTB has for me. Fleming scared me quite a bit, hahaha.


I reread those sections Amy and I couldn’t make complete sense of them either. Was the betrayal Fleming suspected to do with himself or Adam Cohen. Who was possibly betraying whom? I don’t know. Or was he referencing the future mistake of Adam saying Gamache’s name? It isn’t written that way but that is all I can think of today.
I can’t believe we have seen the back of Fleming though.

I too was a little apprehensive about Gamache sending Adam Cohen, hoping nothing bad would happen! It was a tense couple of minutes reading thru it; one thing I did pick up on, which was mentioned twice in Flemming’s thoughts, was a reference to a betrayal. I’ m not sure if it happened or was going to , or if it alludes to something in a future Louise book. Anyone else have any ideas? Did it have something to do with the phones?

When Gamache sent Adam Cohen to get John Fleming, I decided that it was Gamache’s impossible decision, the sacrifing of one or a few to save the many. I was willing to accept just Adam going for that reason and suspend disbelief about procedure. I also felt that Adam knew the risk he was taking and was willing to accept his role, wherever it might lead. And it did lead to something horrible for Adam; he said Gamache’s name and will have to live with that knowledge and guilt as the story progresses.

I put up an invitation on Louise’s FB page, but of course, it goes to the sideline, not the main newsfeed, so I’m not sure anyone much saw it except maybe Louise herself. Of course, I also don’t even know if Louise does the posting on her FB page, or if someone takes her daily posts from her and posts them. (I know she writes them herself – they’re too full of details that only she would be allowed to decide to post such personal things.)


I thought it was too easy, too – and I thought also that, knowing how little security it would result in, that it was kind of cavalier of Gamache to send Adam. Talk about a dangerous assignment! I do think it would be harder for someone to walk in and get a prisoner out than that, but Canada is a smaller, (at least in population – in Geographical size, it’s huge) less savvy country in lots of ways, so it might just be closer to reality than we might want to think. In the end, that didn’t bother me as much as Gamache just putting someone in that kind of danger. But – I know that the danger is something police officers face every day and have, hopefully, trained and prepared for.


Anna, I was also surprised by the lack of security when moving Fleming. I expected something like the scenes I have seen on TV. Armored Vans, police in Riot gear, snipers, SWAT teams, helicopters and yes maybe some military or National Guard on hand. Don’t know if Canada has Guard. But all the steps possible to prevent an escape. I felt sure he was going to escape because of the lax security. Really, I was shocked when he didn’t escape.

When reading some of the lighter, cozy mysteries, I don’t mind the strange inconsistencies. In fact I find them humorous, and read on unless it seems so contrived and just the work of a lazy or poor writer and that ends reading that author. I do think readers should not be assumed to be stupid and accepting of anything.

I hasten to add that we all know that LP is a brilliant author who certainly does her research and cares for her readers. I thought “She has her reasons”. Then I thought that maybe there was no time for all out security. Also, so many agencies would have been involved.


When Adam went to get Fleming the one thing that struck me is how easy that was. One hopes that IRL, in real life, that removing a person like Fleming from a secure environment like that would involve more than one man in a car. I have visits of manacles and prison vans. For Fleming I would want police outriders and snipers, maybe a local army battalion. Anything to keep him away from my child. But seriously, it seemed a bit too easy. It was on thing that jarred me, albeit briefly. I reminded myself that this was important for the plot and moved on.

So my question is, how much are you as a reader, prepared to suspend reality in order to enjoy a good story? Does it vary between authors and texts? If it is otherwise brilliant do you shrug and move on or is it even more glaring? Depending on your background, you probably come across all kinds of inaccuracies in areas where you have intimate knowledge. Does it hurt your enjoyment?

As a writer and a reader I find such things interesting but also important. When I am writing about an area that is not one I am very familiar with I think it is easier to sketch in broad terms but sometimes detail is needed.

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