A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Gamache Series #2)

A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Gamache Series #2)

by Louise Penny


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Winner of the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel!

Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312541163
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/15/2011
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache Series , #2
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 12,996
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (six times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.

Read an Excerpt


Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have bought her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift. She might even have gone to her daughter's end of term pageant at Miss Edward's School for Girls, or 'girths' as CC liked to tease her expansive daughter. Had CC de Poitiers known the end was near she might have been at work instead of in the cheapest room the Ritz in Montreal had to offer. But the only end she knew was near belonged to a man named Saul. 'So, what do you think? Do you like it?' She balanced her book on her pallid stomach.

Saul looked at it, not for the first time. She'd dragged it out of her huge purse every five minutes for the past few days. In busi¬ness meetings, dinners, taxi rides through the snowy streets of Montreal, CC'd suddenly bend down and emerge triumphant, holding her creation as though another virgin birth.

'I like the picture,' he said, knowing the insult. He'd taken the picture. He knew she was asking, pleading, for more and he knew he no longer cared to give it. And he wondered how much longer he could be around CC de Poitiers before he became her. Not physically, of course. At forty-eight she was a few years younger than him. She was slim and ropy and toned, her teeth impossibly white and her hair impossibly blonde. Touching her was like caressing a veneer of ice. There was a beauty to it, and a frailty he found attractive. But there was also danger. If she ever broke, if she shattered, she'd tear him to pieces.

But her exterior wasn't the issue. Watching her caress her book with more tenderness than she'd ever shown when caressing him, he wondered whether her ice water insides had somehow seeped into him, perhaps during sex, and were slowly freezing him. Already he couldn't feel his core.

At fifty-two Saul Petrov was just beginning to notice his friends weren't quite as brilliant, not quite as clever, not quite as slim as they once were. In fact, most had begun to bore him. And he'd noticed a telltale yawn or two from them as well. They were growing thick and bald and dull, and he suspected he was too. It wasn't so bad that women rarely looked at him any more or that he'd begun to consider trading his downhill skis for cross country, or that his GP had scheduled his first prostate test. He could accept all that. What woke Saul Petrov at two in the morning, and whispered in his ears in the voice that had warned him as a child that lions lived under his bed, was the certainty that people now found him boring. He'd take deep dark breaths of the night air, trying to reassure himself that the stifled yawn of his dinner companion was because of the wine or the magret de canard or the warmth in the Montreal restaurant, wrapped as they were in their sensible winter sweaters. But still the night voice growled and warned of dangers ahead. Of impending disaster. Of telling tales too long, of an attention span too short, of seeing the whites of too many eyes. Of glances, fast and discreet, at watches. When can they reasonably leave him? Of eyes scanning the room, desperate for more stimulating company.

And so he'd allowed himself to be seduced by CC. Seduced and devoured so that the lion under the bed had become the lion in the bed. He'd begun to suspect this self-absorbed woman had finally finished absorbing herself, her husband and even that disaster of a daughter and was now busy absorbing him.

He'd already become cruel in her company. And he'd begun despising himself. But not quite as much as he despised her.

'It's a brilliant book,' she said, ignoring him. 'I mean, really. Who wouldn't want this?' She waved it in his face. 'People'll eat it up. There're so many troubled people out there.' She turned now and actually looked out their hotel room window at the building opposite, as though surveying her 'people'. 'I did this for them.' Now she turned back to him, her eyes wide and sincere.

Does she believe it? he wondered.

He'd read the book, of course. Be Calm she'd called it, after the company she'd founded a few years ago, which was a laugh given the bundle of nerves she actually was. The anxious, nervous hands, constantly smoothing and straightening. The snippy responses, the impatience that spilled over into anger.

Calm was not a word anyone would apply to CC de Poitiers, despite her placid, frozen exterior.

She'd shopped the book around to all the publishers, beginning with the top publishing houses in New York and ending with Publications Réjean et Maison des cartes in St Polycarpe, a onevache village along the highway between Montreal and Toronto. They'd all said no, immediately recognizing the manuscript as a flaccid mishmash of ridiculous self-help philosophies, wrapped in half-baked Buddhist and Hindu teachings, spewed forth by a woman whose cover photo looked as though she'd eat her young. 'No goddamned enlightenment,' she'd said to Saul in her Montreal office the day a batch of rejection letters arrived, ripping them into pieces and dropping them on the floor for the hired help to clean up. 'This world is messed up, I tell you. People are cruel and insensitive, they're out to screw each other. There's no love or compassion. This', she sliced her book violently in the air like an ancient mythical hammer, heading for an unforgiving anvil, 'will teach people how to find happiness.' Her voice was low, the words staggering under the weight of venom. She'd gone on to self-publish her book, making sure it was out in time for Christmas. And while the book talked a lot about light Saul found it interesting and ironic that it had actually been released on the winter solstice. The darkest day of the year.

'Who published it again?' He couldn't seem to help himself. She was silent. 'Oh, I remember now,' he said. 'No one wanted it. That must have been horrible.' He paused for a moment, wondering whether to twist the knife. Oh, what the hell. Might as well. 'How'd that make you feel?' Did he imagine the wince?

But her silence remained, eloquent, her face impassive. Anything CC didn't like didn't exist. That included her husband and her daughter. It included any unpleasantness, any criticism, any harsh words not her own, any emotions. CC lived, Saul knew, in her own world, where she was perfect, where she could hide her feelings and hide her failings.

He wondered how long before that world would explode. He hoped he'd be around to see it. But not too close.

People are cruel and insensitive, she'd said. Cruel and insensitive. It wasn't all that long ago, before he'd taken the contract to freelance as CC's photographer and lover, that he'd actually thought the world a beautiful place. Each morning he'd wake early and go into the young day, when the world was new and anything was possible, and he'd see how lovely Montreal was. He'd see people smiling at each other as they got their cappuccinos at the café, or their fresh flowers or their baguettes. He'd see the children in autumn gathering the fallen chestnuts to play conkers. He'd see the elderly women walking arm in arm down the Main.

He wasn't foolish or blind enough not to also see the homeless men and women, or the bruised and battered faces that spoke of a long and empty night and a longer day ahead.

But at his core he believed the world a lovely place. And his photographs reflected that, catching the light, the brilliance, the hope. And the shadows that naturally challenged the light.

Ironically it was this very quality that had caught CC's eye and led her to offer him the contract. An article in a Montreal style magazine had described him as a 'hot' photographer, and CC always went for the best. Which was why they always took a room at the Ritz. A cramped, dreary room on a low floor without view or charm, but the Ritz. CC would collect the shampoos and stationery to prove her worth, just as she'd collected him. And she'd use them to make some obscure point to people who didn't care, just as she'd use him. And then, eventually, everything would be discarded. As her husband had been tossed aside, as her daughter was ignored and ridiculed.

The world was a cruel and insensitive place.

And he now believed it.

He hated CC de Poitiers.

He got out of bed, leaving CC to stare at her book, her real lover. He looked at her and she seemed to go in and out of focus.

He cocked his head to one side and wondered whether he'd had too much to drink again. But still she seemed to grow fuzzy, then sharp, as though he was looking through a prism at two different women, one beautiful, glamorous, vivacious, and the other a pathetic, dyed-blonde rope, all corded and wound and knotted and rough. And dangerous.

'What's this?' He reached into the garbage and withdrew a portfolio. He recognized it immediately as an artist's dossier of work. It was beautifully and painstakingly bound and printed on archival Arche paper. He flipped it open and caught his breath. A series of works, luminous and light, seemed to glow off the fine paper. He felt a stirring in his chest. They showed a world both lovely and hurt. But mostly, it was a world where hope and comfort still existed. It was clearly the world the artist saw each day, the world the artist lived in. As he himself once lived in a world of light and hope.

The works appeared simple but were in reality very complex. Images and colors were layered one on top of the other. Hours and hours, days and days must have been spent on each one to get the desired effect.

He stared down at the one before him now. A majestic tree soared into the sky, as though keening for the sun. The artist had photographed it and had somehow captured a sense of movement without making it disorienting. Instead it was graceful and calming and, above all, powerful. The tips of the branches seemed to melt or become fuzzy as though even in its confidence and yearning there was a tiny doubt. It was brilliant.

All thoughts of CC were forgotten. He'd climbed into the tree, almost feeling tickled by its rough bark, as if he had been sitting on his grandfather's lap and snuggling into his unshaven face. How had the artist managed that?

He couldn't make out the signature. He flipped through the other pages and slowly felt a smile come to his frozen face and move to his hardened heart.

Maybe, one day, if he ever got clear of CC he could go back to his work and do pieces like this.

He exhaled all the darkness he'd stored up.

'So, do you like it?' CC held her book up and waved it at him.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion questions for The Three Pines Mysteries, by Louise Penny

1. How important is the use of humor in this book?

2. Which Three Pines villager would you most like to have cafe au lait with at the bistro?

3. Why is Ruth a villager?

4 Louise Penny says her books are about murder, but at their heart they're about other things. What else is this book about? What are some other themes?

5. Agent Nichol is an extremely controversial character in the books. What do you think of her? What purpose does she serve?

Discussion questions for A Fatal Grace

1. In the golden age of classic murder mysteries, the Detection Club, whose founders included Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, drew up a list of rules for crime fiction that included the following: "No clue that is important to the solution of the puzzle may be concealed from the reader." What are the clues to the murders in A Fatal Grace, and how does Louise Penny hide them in plain sight?

2. Consider the lines (from "A Sad Child," by Margaret Atwood"): "Well, all children are sad/but some get over it." A number of the people in the novel have had damaging childhoods. What helps or hinders them in moving beyond those childhoods?

3. Discuss the different meanings in the book of "Be Calm" (and B KLM).

4. Beauvoir regards Gamache as having saved him. Is Gamache trying to do the same for Nichol, and what do you think his chances are for success? What do you think it takes to get on what Beauvoir calls Gamache's legendary, albeit well hidden, "bad side"?

5. Why does Gamache laugh with joy when Ruth Zardo says that CC de Poitiers "wasn't very good, but she wasn't so bad either. I mean really…who isn't cruel and selfish?" Do you think Gamache agrees with this idea? Do you agree?

6. Three Pines is described as enchanted and magical, a fairy-tale world—but it's also a world where Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster. How do you view the village and the people who live there?

7. Clara says, "At two in the afternoon my art is brilliant, at two in the morning it's crap." Peter doesn't understand her art, but Gamache calls it marvelous. What do you think this says about her art and about her marriage? Why does Gamache tell Clara that she has "an instinct for crime"?

8. What impression do you get of Reine-Marie from her relatively brief appearances in the story? What do you think of her marriage to Gamache?

9. Both Clara and Gamache believe they see God in the course of this story. How do you view their experiences (and why lemon meringue pie)?

Customer Reviews

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A Fatal Grace (Armand Gamache Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 214 reviews.
lostwithoutabook More than 1 year ago
Louise Penny is one of the few authors who can combine strong and singular characters, lyrical writing style and satisfying plots into an immensely readable book. Her characters in the Three Pines series become neighbors that you grow to both love and sometimes, not so much, as each develops into complex and very human dimensional character. The plots are vehicles for the character development, but they are well thought out and progress at a pace that does not bore. It is with the side plots where I feel she truly excels - this is where you will Penny offering day-to-day situations and exploring the motivations for our actions that all people deal with. There are endless topics here for book clubs to discuss. But foremost for me is her style of writing. She is a wordsmith. The well- crafted sentences, finding the precise word and turning a phrase that conveys meaning in a near poetic manner makes her works a joy to read. She is an author who will remind you why it is you love to read. The series does not have to be read in order, but if you do, the characters will unfold in a graceful way. "A Fatal Grace" is the 4th of the series I have read, and it's one of my favorites so far.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am now in my 3rd Three Pines mystery, so obviously, I like them. Armand Gamache is a character that I really love and want to continue reading about. In fact, the goings-on at his police dept. trump the dramas at Three Pines. One has to keep reading to see if he figures it all out. This particular Three Pines mystery was a good one. I just had a problem with the murderer--I'm not convinced that that person had the intelligence and cunning to pull that off. Other than that, I have only praise for the book and highly recommend it to anyone who loves mysteries and doesn't love gratuitous violence and gore.
alb04 More than 1 year ago
This is book for serious readers as well as plain, unashamed mystery lovers. I've read all the books in the series about Chief Inspector Gamache and the Surete de Quebec. Like the others in the series, this would be a great choice for club discussions, whether of writing technique, plot construction, psychological insight, personalities of the main characters, implied social commentary...and more. There's a lot of meat in these stories. Louise Penny's novels are novels first and mysteries second, which is what I like best about them. They are also told in a vice that give the reader almost as much information about their author as she provides for her characters. Setting, characterizations (a special challenge because this is part of a series that contains only a few new people in each story) all are without fail surprising, illuminating, and above all, to me--real. I admire the moral messages in each book of the series that are delivered so painlessly and intrinsically.
-JACKI- More than 1 year ago
Penny has a real insight into people and a wonderful way of creating a cozy atmosphere, small town living. Compelling characters and brain teasing who-dun-it. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Another hit!! A couple of other books that are on my "masterpiece shelf",...EXPLOSION IN PARIS, by Linda Pirrung and THE HELP, by K. Stockett.
booklover52NJ More than 1 year ago
Once I read one book by Louise Penny, I ordered all her others from B&N -- I wasn't disappointed... as a matter of fact, I've ordered her next one!
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
I very seldom read a book again, with the exception of Louise Penny. Penny's books bring tears of sadness and happiness to me. I would love to meet Clara and see her paintings. And I feel a kinship with Ruth, that old woman with a gruff exterior and a heart of gold. Three Pines, the village, stands as a Brigadoon that only a few chosen people find and enjoy. Each character has an interesting personality. The three older women show the strength and vulnerability of these three friends. I notice that this book points to a future book, How the Light Gets In, many times. Inspector Gamache is one of most favorite detectives. Whenever I feel my life hitting snags, I think of Gamache, and know I need to try harder.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Penny's books are so enjoyable to read and I can't wait for each new one to come out. This book is entertaining and a great read. Her characters are interesting and I find myself really caring about them.
edofarrell More than 1 year ago
This series could be described as 'Lake Woebegon' with murders. The writing is sharp with effective dialog. The reader is transported to Three Pines and becomes immersed in the idylic life of the village. The mysteries are believable, the tension builds nicely and the endings are realistic and satisfying. If you're looking for several hours of enjoyment, these books are well worth the investment.
EJA More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the setting and the style which reminded me of Elizabeth George. The "suspects" were well done and hard to pinpoint which made it exciting. I liked the characters very much.
LilyLangtry More than 1 year ago
Well, I am truly enamored with Louise Penny after reading the second in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, not only for the mystery aspects but her insights into the human psyche. Anxious to continue sharing the lives of Three Pines with Gamache's and his cohorts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The series is great---it does not just go on and on about the crime---but gets one invol ved with the people, history, etc. Hope she continues with the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Blackie11 More than 1 year ago
The setting is during the winter, illustrating the beauty and challenges of the snow and cold in this quaint village. This especially resonated with me as I read the story in December. The characters are so well developed that you feel you know each of them and are a part of their little community. Ms. Penny's structure is reminiscent of the Grand Dame Agatha Christie as she drops clues along the story's journey which are individually examined by her version of Hercule Poirot, who then weaves them together at the end of the story. Very entertaining. Turning from chapter to chapter, you find that you've started the next book. I recommend, though not required, that the books be read in order so you get to know the characters and references to prior books make better sense.
sequim More than 1 year ago
I am now on #7 in the series and I've loved every book! The ongoing people in the books are interesting and it's also nice to get so much histery and ambiance of Canada in this mystery series.
KrisPA More than 1 year ago
I really didn't think I would like these books because I am not crazy about cozy village mysteries, but I like the characters and Gamache. Even though I had figured out who the murderers were fairly easily, I still enjoyed the book. I'm very caught up in Gamache's problem with this previous Arnot case and the continuing fall out from it. Also I'm very intrigued by Agent Nichol--she is a puzzling and unlikeable character, but you think she might be redeemable. I'm very much looking forward to reading the next book to see who is working against Gamache and trying to bring him down and how he will handle that problem. The only thing I don't like about this series is how long it takes to get into the plot, and the excerpts of (character) Ruth Zardo's poetry is getting excessive. A little of that goes a long way. Otherwise, I enjoy the time I spend in Three Pines and would love to visit and get a bite to eat at Oliver's bistro.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Three Pines, Quebec socialite CC de Poitiers runs a successful personal guidance business based on her book Be Calm until she participates in the local Yuletide curling competition only to be electrocuted. Montreal Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrives at the tiny village to lead the official inquiry into what appears to be a tragic accident.----------- Armand interviews the victim¿s submissive spouse and overweight daughter, a lover, a rival self-help guru, curling competitors and officials, and some townsfolk. All seem to have alibis, but share in common a universal loathing of CC. In fact each person questioned paints a picture of an abusive ugly person and that the culprit should be honored not arrested. Thus everyone he has talked to especially the family members has a motive for killing the apparently odious CC de Poitiers most had an opportunity though they offer alibis.----------------- When Gamache is front and center investigating the death, A FATAL GRACE is a superb police procedural when the plot refers to the past especially that of the odious deceased it loses momentum. Still the story line contains a fine whodunit as it appears that much of Quebec wanted the nasty CC dead and several had the opportunity to fix her equipment and that make for a bunch of suspects for the police and readers to sift through and find out who, of all those who wanted her dead actually, acted on the desire.----------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous 7 months ago
a rare portrait of a humane and deep protagonist
Anonymous 9 months ago
Great book just as good as her first- excited to continue the Three Pines series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Find it very difficult to put this book down. My housework and sleep are suffering!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cyderry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is once again sent to Three Pines to investigate a murder. CC de Poitiers is electrocuted while in the middle of a frozen pond watching a curling match on Boxing Day. How is that possible? Inspector Gamache sets to work determining the means, motive and opportunity of such a strange and intricate murder lead to unusual discoveries as well as bringing back painful memories of his previous time in Three Pines. The characters and setting are so beautifully detailed. Drawn within the mystery are 3 dimensional characters that are funny, true-to-life, and people that you want to take to your heart and name as your friends. The reader understands how much Armand adores his wife, feels the hesitation of the new team members, and wonder along with the inhabitants of Three Pines as they try to understand the behavior of the victim and how it was the cause of the murder, Gamache instills loyalty and respect from his team while working to inspire all those around him.It took me a while to get into this book because I had to think back to the first one and it took several chapters to get to the point where I felt comfortable again with the characters. We are given a glimpse into the farther reaching aspects of Gamache's life with some hints leaving the reader hanging and searching for resolution in the future. The series is entertaining with a beautiful setting and heartwarming characters.
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I did not read the first in this series but I think I'll give it a shot. I loved the inspector's character and the setting makes this a great winter read. I would not recommend listening to the audio version - not because the narrator isn't good (he is) but because the audio gives something away that the book probably does not. Can't be more specific without spoiling it!
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I find it hard to describe what it is I like so much about this book as well as the first book in the series-- difficult enough that I never reviewed Still Life.I find them very comfortable books-- not sweet books, not cozy books, but books where I just seamlessly slip into their world. The village of Three Pines is a vivid place, with interesting characters. There is an emphasis on art in both of these books-- the first featured painters, and many of the characters continued into A Fatal Grace, which briefly added a designer and photographer to the cast, before killing one of them off. I find that this emphasis is reflected by the book as a whole-- I have an impression of the characters that seems almost more of a portrait of a character than knowing them personally.In many ways, that's true of the book as a whole. It has all the elements that make for a good story-- an engaging plot, the many twists and turns of a well executed mystery, and intriguing characters. It has a wonderful sense of place as well.I already have the next book loaded on my MP3 player.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second book in the series about Armand Gamache of the Montreal police. This story also takes place in Three Pines as did the first book. Penny gives us another great mystery with strong, interesting characters and a plot with a nice twist¿even if the method of murder is somewhat implausible. It was a great audio book for our trip and both Jim and I enjoyed it. 4 stars