Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another roman-fleuve for your late night reading

The first Chief Inspector Gamache book filmed for TV

I have just finished the 10th of 10 detective novels by Louise Perry, her entire Chief Inspector Gamache series, and generally rate them 3-4 out of 5, which is pretty good for escape fiction aimed at entertainment more than deep introspection. She writes about Montreal and a small town south of there (and Penny does live in a small village south of Montreal.)  The overlap of the dominant French language and culture with the English-speaking inhabitants is constant throughout the series.

I frequently grab my Kindle at 2 or 3 a.m. and read from one of these books until falling asleep some variable interval later.  (Since retiring, I have for some reason developed this habit of "Second Sleep" which historically has been a part of various cultures, but in my case may have more to do with no longer having the daily alarm set at 5:30 a.m. rather than exploring medieval sleep habits.)

At any rate, this series of books constitutes a roman-fleuve (French, literally "river-novel") refering to an extended sequence of novels of which the whole acts as a commentary for a society or an epoch, and which continually deals with a central character, community or a saga within a family. The river metaphor implies a steady, broad dynamic lending itself to a perspective. Each volume makes up a complete novel by itself, but the entire cycle exhibits unifying characteristics.  This is not at the same level of the last roman-fleuve I reviewed, but I clearly enjoyed Penny's writing or I would not have finished the 10 books so quickly and had the August 2015 book on pre-order.

Several of the books take place predominantly in the tiny hamlet of "Three Pines", with every other book or so places predominantly  or completely elsewhere in Quebec.  It is easy to find reviews online.  I will just add  that Penny has decent crime plots with adequate misdirection while maintaining reasonable believability, but layered on top of these not so exceptional plots is deep development of multiple characters, integrating philosophical questioning of their underlying drives and motives.