Here is my review of the fifteenth book I read, or rather reread, for the book challenge. It was A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny, a Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery.
In this book, Armand Gamache investigates two murders, one of a homeless woman called only “Elle” in Montreal, and the other a well-known lifestyle guru named C.C. dePoitiers in Three Pines. CC was electrocuted at a curling match the day after Christmas, Boxing Day in Canada, at a lake. She was murdered, they know, because a number of factors had to come together in order for her to be electrocuted. She had to touch the metal of a folding chair with her bare hands; she had to be standing in a puddle of liquid; the chair had to have electric current flowing through it; and she had to have metal on the soles of her boots.
CC was not well-liked by the people of Three Pines. She looked down on the villagers. She thought she was better than they were. She went to Mother Bea Mayer’s meditation and yoga center Be Calm and criticized her for her use of bright colors. She felt that only white should be used and worn. It was the purest color. She felt that emotions should not be shown, that emotions were harmful. In fact, she told Mother that she would have to change the name of her center since CC’s lifestyle was called Be Calm. She was negotiating with an American company to market bed linens and home furnishings for her Be Calm line and had just published a book about her philosophy. In it she told about her parents, Richard and Eleanor dePoitiers of France. She was married to a mousy little man named Richard Lyon and had one daughter, Crie, who was terribly overweight and bullied at school, ignored and bullied by her mother, but who had a voice like an angel and was a brillant student at school.
As Gamache and his team investigate the murders, they find that CC is not what she seemed to be. Her parents were not real, but were figments of her imagination. She married her husband because of his name. They discover that the homeless woman was originally from Three Pines, one of a group of women who grew up together. Her name was Eleanor, but she was called El. She went with Mother Bea to India to seek enlightenment, but became increasingly mentally unbalanced. She became homeless and had a child who was taken from her at about the age of ten. These events were told to Gamache by Émilie Longpré, one of the women, who with Kaye Thompson, were friends with Mother Bea and El. Ém had a necklace of a screaming eagle made for El who always wore it around her neck. The three friends always would go into Montreal on December 23 to give El a Christmas gift of a new blanket and food; if they went any other day it would upset El. But this year when they went, they couldn’t find her. That’s because she had been murdered. Gamache had found the necklace in the garbage can in CC’s house. CC had found her mother outside the department store where she was selling her book and strangled her and broken the necklace off her neck.
In the climax of the book, there is a terrible snow storm. The three elderly friends who believe they have plotted to kill CC have gone out on the lake in the middle of the snow storm to die together. They have left a letter to Gamache confessing what they have done and telling him to let them go to their deaths peacefully. Gamache races to the lake to try to save them and also realizes that they couldn’t have killed CC since they didn’t have one important piece of the equation.
I recommend this book since once again, Louise Penny leaves us in suspense until the very end of the book. We may think the three elderly friends plotted to kill CC but they are really covering for someone else. It is a surprise ending that I didn’t see coming but made sense. The title comes from a painting that one of the villagers, Clara Murrow, painted of the three elderly women holding each other, which she titled “The Three Graces.” She also painted individual portraits of the women as the Three Graces. Once again the village of Three Pines features prominently in the story but the town of Williamsburg is also the scene of the crime this time and the scene of the climax of the story. If you enjoy mysteries, especially Armand Gamache and his team of the Sureté du Québec, this is a book for you.