Hoo boy…after the high of the previous book I reviewed, this one took a hard turn into disappointment. It should have been everything I like in a book – a no-nonsense detective, mysterious death, some quirky characters who may or may not be the perpetrator of the crime. It’s even set in small town Quebec – I’m Canadian, this should be great! Even most of the reviews were glowing, and as the first book in a series I hoped to be able to settle into an enjoyable stretch of books.
It started off promisingly enough – the victim in the woods, no obvious clue as to what happened and Inspector Gamache on the scene, wondering what happened. From there it jumps back a few days to a meeting between Jane Neal (the victim) and Clara, an artist. The narrative bumps along for awhile, going from there to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner where a large group of townfolk are introduced. Everyone has some quirk – and we even have the requisite gay couple running the bistro/antique store/bed and breakfast. The dinner was full of inside jokes and stories – I felt much like going to a party where I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t wait for it to end. The first chapters of a book need to grab my attention, and this one was starting to have the opposite effect on me.
Anyway, finally Inspector Gamache makes his appearance again, along with his right hand man and a young detective on what seems to be her first big job. Yvette Nichol was an odd character – rather standoffish, inexperienced and seemingly determined to put her foot in her mouth on purpose. She didn’t progress any during the book and I don’t know what the purpose of her character was. Gamache is supposed to be the ray of light in the police force; intelligent, well balanced and with a loving wife at home. And yet…for all of the times we are told he’s the best detective, I didn’t feel he did any real detecting in this case. Far too much telling and not enough showing.
I managed to keep reading, though I skimmed a lot to get through it. I think the book suffered from an excess of characters, and spent far too much time explaining the differences in bows and arrows. The other issue I had was the excessive head hopping in every chapter – so many times the point of view bounced back and forth like a ping pong ball. I really dislike that – pick one character and stick with it.
Overall, it was tedious and I really didn’t care about whodunit. I see that the author has received many awards for writing, so I can assume that things improved as the series went on, but I won’t be bothering to stick around for it. I realize that many of you here may enjoy this series, but it really isn’t for me.