As the Three Pines mysteries make their way to series television on Amazon Prime, Louise Penny continues her impressive output of first-class crime fiction beloved by both fanatics of the genre and the more casual readers of crime fiction. Like all the novels featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, A World of Curiosities weaves together a compelling mystery and a quaint look at village life, populated by some truly unique and adored characters, all while conveying human truths in the psychologically astute manner Louise Penny has honed over the course of seventeen unforgettable novels.
A World of Curiosities begins with a look back at the first case Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir conducted together. In these early sections of the novel, past and present blend together creating a timeless mist reinforcing how profoundly this particular investigation impacted both of these grounded gentlemen. When the grown children of a troubled mother who was murdered return to Three Pines for a graduation celebration, Gamache and Beauvoir are forced to confront their unresolved—and conflicting—conclusions at the end of that investigation.
In another thread within this complex novel, the villagers of Three Pines discover a hidden room which has been bricked over, despite the space being filled with antiques, heirlooms, and more than a few creepy items. Who would do such a thing? And why? It will take a coordinated effort by all of the village’s citizens to uncover the truth hidden within that peculiar attic area.
As these two storylines converge, Louise Penny crafts some beautiful passages of human understanding and empathy, then juxtaposes those deep mediations with some truly tense scenes threatening the lives of some cherished characters. A World of Curiosities proves how the ease of this author’s prose so expertly hides the clever manipulation and forethought Louise Penny has embedded within her progression of novels. Readers may find themselves stopping their consumption of this new novel to revisit an earlier book in the series—the action of which greatly impacts events documented in A World of Curiosities. Rather than being an annoyance, most readers will come away impressed with how interconnected these novels really are—more like one extremely long novel of one man’s evolution—Armand Gamache’s—rather than a loosely connected collection of stories with a recurring cast and set in the same location.
Like Agatha Christie and St Mary Mead, readers tend to view Louise Penny and her creation, Three Pines, as a gentle place. Even when crimes are occurring—and they are often violent crimes with sinister motivations—the reader is held in a place of safety and comfort by Louise Penny’s optimistically realist view of humanity. That bond remains in place with A World of Curiosities, but readers should be aware that there are moments early in this novel when the nature of crime threatens to test this tenuous relationship between creator and audience. A World of Curiosities is possibly the darkest book in the series and its harrowing journey into the depraved mind may shock more delicate readers, but it cannot be denied that it is also one of the best books in the series. At this point, her many fans have proven they are willing to follow her off the beaten path into the dark unknown and by the end, Louise Penny once again rewards this loyalty with a gripping and exciting conclusion worthy of this gem of a novel.
If you are a fan of Louise Penny, Three Pines, and Armand Gamache, do not miss this novel. In an oeuvre of incredible highs, A World of Curiosities reaches new and uncharted territory.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.