Glass Houses by Louise Penny (Book Review)

Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #13)Glass Houses by Louise Penny

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This isn’t doing it for me, and that’s too bad. Really.

The pacing is one problem; it’s awful. The book opens with Gamache on the witness stand, testifying against the accused in a murder trial, and flips back and forth in time as events unfold–partly, I think, to play up Gamache’s helplessness as momentum gathered into murder and his perceived ineffectiveness against an enormous opiate trafficking problem. This can be a very effective way to build suspense–it is stock-in-trade for author Laura Lippmann and she makes it look easy–but here it feels contrived and tedious. We slog halfway into the book before we finally have our dead body, and I see from other reviews that it’ll be another quarter of the book before find out who is sitting in the accused box in the opening pages. I’ve read what must be thousands of whodunits that didn’t reveal the accused until the very end, but it’s just not working here. I feel played.

Another irritant is the writing style, overflowing with incomplete sentences and chopped-up paragraphs:

They all knew that look. They’d seen it before. More times than you’d think possible.

There was no censure there. No suggestion they shouldn’t ask. He’d be surprised if they didn’t. And they’d be surprised if he answered.

More than anything, there was resolve in those eyes.

But this time there was also anger. And shock. Though he tried to hide both.

Like that, constantly. There are very few normal paragraphs in the book. I am not fond of Writing With a Capital W that is meant to create a dramatic atmosphere but only serves to trip me up. Lee Child used a similar incomplete-sentence trick to lose me as a reader forever in less than two chapters.

Still. I grabbed this from the library display on a whim, being new to Louise Penny. I see it’s number 12 or 13 in a series and that this entry was a departure in style that was less popular with series devotees. I scoped out a couple of earlier entries on Google Books; the choppiness and contrived tension seem unique to this book. I’m always looking for my next favorite cozy series, so maybe I’ll try an earlier installment. This one has to be back at the library in two days, no renewals allowed, so I’m going to toss it back without investing myself further.

I particularly like the creative use of the cobrador del frac, used in Spain not to harass those who cannot pay a debt, but to shame those who have the means but will not pay a debt, beefed up into the Conscience with a capital C that collects on a moral debt by silently staring down a wrongdoer into madness. That was beautiful and eerie and felt perfect, at this almost-Halloween part of the year. I wish it had been done well enough to keep me going.

Bookshelves: abandoned, cozy-mystery, mystery, whodunit, detective, canada, creepy-horror-stuff

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Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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