A World of Curiosities (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #18), by Louise Penny

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

»A tale of demons and witches, hidden rooms and unexpected saviors.
Of Fate both cruel and kind.

A World of Curiosities” by Louise Penny is another brilliant entry into a series that has long ensnared me with its curious mixture of crime, mystery and thriller in combination with true emotional depth. The almost mystic village of Three Pines and its cracked and sometimes broken inhabitants also plays a central role in this instalment.

Gamache no. 18 grants us insights into the past of Armand Gamache and how he came to join the homicide department of the Sûreté in the first place. Even more importantly to the story, though, we finally learn how both Armand and Jean-Guy Beauvoir first met each other which is enticing on its own.

Around this old case of murder and corruption, the story in this book evolves as the victims of the past re-emerge in Three Pines. A secret room, an old grimoire, a spellbook, a curious painting “The Paston Treasure” (nicknamed “A World of Curiosities”), a witch of old (and Ruth), an old nemesis – they all play a central role in this suspenseful novel.

»Jean-Guy Beauvoir, lashed to the mast, would sink or swim with this man. Their fates were bound together, as the winds howled, and the storm descended, and they traveled deeper into Hell.«

Not only are the old friends and foes back, though, but new friends take the stage as well: Myrna’s niece, Harriett, as well as Agent Amelia Choquet. The latter proves not only to be an indispensable part of the team but also a true friend… The only person conspicuously absent was, sadly, Isabelle Lacoste who’s on vacation and only cursorily helps towards the end…

This novel has a strong focus on the mystery and is, at times, very, very suspenseful. I read at almost every possible moment, chasing pages and chapters! Every night I was sad to go to sleep but also looking forward to resume reading this excellent novel again. It is very slightly less focussed on moral, emotional or intellectual aspects than some of the other novels in this series but this in no way diminishes its literary value.

And it still touches upon important topics…

»They didn’t need proof. All a woman had to be was alive. Just being a woman was, in the church’s eyes, evil.”
“But there must’ve been a reason,” said Gabri.
“Is there a reason gay, lesbian, and transgender people are attacked?” asked Ruth. “Is there a reason Black men are shot? Is there a reason women are raped, abused, refused abortions, groomed and sold as sex slaves?”
“Murdered,” said Myrna, looking at the bouquet of white roses on the kitchen island.

Since “A World of Curiosities” explores all the background and the past to the extent needed to enjoy the novel, it could even be read on its own or serve as an introduction to Armand Gamache.

As is the case with most of Penny’s novels this one also has a central idea which permeates everything. As always, though, this is rather subtly done by Penny so I won’t mention it here but maybe you’d like to find out for yourself? Because just like our world, this novel is, indeed, in the best sense “A World of Curiosities”…

Five out of five stars!

»I honestly don’t feel I can take full credit for the books. There is, finally, an element of magic, of inspiration that seems to come out of nowhere. I have my own theories about where it comes from. I wanted, at the end of this, the eighteenth novel, to make it clear that in writing the Gamache books there is more than meets the eye. And always has been.«

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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