While this novel was still good, I was not quite as enamored with this one as with Still Life. I think it took too long to get to the murder. The novel introduces Cecilia “CC” de Poitiers on the first page, and states within the first paragraph that she would be the murder victim, but Penny spent quite a while with CC and her other characters before actually getting around to killing CC. I was anxiously awaiting her death because she was horrible, and I wanted to get into the mystery (and would not have been surprised by a Murder on the Orient Express style twist).
CC lived in Three Pines, so Penny checks in with the characters from the previous novel, which I enjoyed to an extent, but it also seemed like the story spent a bit much time with them rather than focused on the mystery. While the novel keeps referring to the mysterious Arnot case from Gamache’s past, Penny doesn’t keep the reader on the ropes for too long and by the end of the novel, the reader knows exactly what shadow is on Gamache’s career. The fall out, however, is far from over and looks like it will continue for at least the next novel, if not further.
Basically, CC de Poitiers is a horrible woman, she is emotionally and verbally abusive to her husband and daughter while also selling herself as a life style guru with a self-published book called Be Calm. She is all about style and image, and there is not a single person in the novel that likes her, including her lover. She even buys baby seal skin boots (her whole stick is around the color white as a perfect balance of all emotions) to emphasize how horrible she is. Her murder is incredibly complicated, leading to questions of why that particular method was chosen and how the killer pulled it off. The investigation also raises questions about CC’s past, and shows how little she shared of herself with those around her.
The mystery itself was very satisfying, but I felt like there was a bit too much build up leading up to it, and I am not entirely sure how I feel about the return of Yvette Nichol. She continues to be someone that gets close to making a breakthrough or developing an insight only to completely miss the point. While I made a comment during my last review of wanting to see the many supporting characters again, I am worried that Penny may have overused them already and hope she limits herself. After all, a small, sleepy community like Three Pines probably shouldn’t have too many murders occurring in a short time period, so hopefully she chooses a new community for the next few crimes. There was quite a bit of set up for the rest of the series as well from an office politics perspective so I am interested to see how that ends up playing out in later novels.