Glass Houses

Glass Houses

Large Print - 2017
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When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day, Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are at first curious. Then wary. Through rain and sleet, the figure stands unmoving, staring ahead. From the moment its shadow falls over the village, Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. Yet he does nothing. What can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized. But when the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied. Months later, on a steamy July day as the trial for the accused begins in Montréal, Chief Superintendent Gamache continues to struggle with actions he set in motion that bitter November, from which there is no going back. More than the accused is on trial. Gamache's own conscience is standing in judgment.
Publisher: Waterville, ME : Thorndike Press, 2017.
Edition: Large print edition.
ISBN: 9781432841874
Branch Call Number: PEN
Characteristics: 657 pages ; 23 cm.


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Feb 24, 2018

I became acquainted with the genius of Louise Penny when I read in 2012 her debut novel, Still Life, published in 2005. Back then, I wrote for myself this response to her writing: Remarkable in that the spirit outranks the letter. Author stands at the portal to organic writing.

The ensuing years have brought forth eleven more novels penned by Penny, and now, with the creation of Glass Houses, her thirteenth novel, she stands in the vestibule of organic writing, which evolves without intellectual prodding. There's plenty of this prodding in the production of this murder mystery, but the organic nature lifts from the pages near the middle of the book. There rapture awaits the reader who is keen in engaging the spirit of the story. The following four sentences from page 184 of the hardcover offer a taste of this rapture:
"[Chief Superintendent] Armand Gamache walked through the late afternoon darkness. The lights from the cottages were made soft by the mist that still hung over the village. Three Pines felt slightly out of focus. Not quite of this world."

Three Pines is on the map if you've been there; otherwise, it does not exist.

Louise Penny builds her mystery with the help of glass houses, a baseball bat, the novel Lord of the Flies, the phrase "burn our ships," Mahatma Gandhi's higher court of the conscience, lesbianism, an old poet demented with insight, and the Spanish cobrador, who collects debts. Penny, in pushing to the beyond, infuses "cobrador" with a higher meaning: "conscience."

How the cobrador as conscience plays out in the story is done well. Penny's cobrador wears a black costume and mask. Three Pines, located near Montreal and the border with the United States, is the center of the story, and it is here that the cobrador appears and stands mute on the village green. This sinister presence causes a stir in the village. A lot of questions are raised, with the most basic of them—what is it doing here?—leading into the intrigue.

Chief Superintendent Gamache was the first to confront the cobrador. The entity did not move, it did not speak. If the narrator would have given Gamache the opportunity to assess the height of the cobrador and detect the scent, if any, of the person hidden by black, the intrigue would have been put at risk. Sherlock Holmes with the help of his narrator would have taken this opportunity and damn the intrigue, but Holmes could have no place in this mystery because he favors the letter in solving a crime whereas Gamache favors the spirit.

Louise Penny creates in Glass Houses an enjoyable read by creating symbols, even of the murder victim and Three Pines itself, and by keeping the reader close to Armand Gamache, whose conscience is on trial.

The murder mystery intersects later with a search for the leader of a drug cartel. Is that culprit the murderer?

By the end of the story, the reader may be thinking that Louise Penny, the conscience for Glass Houses, is her own hero, Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache, the conscience for a world hidden from the world.

Jan 17, 2018

I'm not a fan. Nothing happened in the first 150 pages except to establish, ad nauseam, the existence of a cobrador. Determined to finish despite my lack of enthusium I plodded to the end. I wanted more engagement to the characters, not blind devotion to the author.

Jan 15, 2018

Disappointing, using a "scary thing" as the crux of the story. Slow moving and repetitive with how Gamache "felt." The story was not captivating in any way unlike her first books.

Jan 07, 2018

One of the things I enjoy so much about a Louise Penny book is the way she incorporates her research into her books. An example is Beautiful Mysteries, which is about silent monks who make Gregorian chants a central part of their faith and worship. I became aware of the depth of her immersion into the research when she noted that the monks’ silence awakened them to an awareness of minuscule expressions and the thoughts they conveyed. That is not something she learned from Wikipedia. (This is as opposed to The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about a girl from a hill tribe in China, Akha. When I looked up Akha, I found an entry that included all the beliefs and practices that were related in the book. I got no insights that would have come from someone having actual experienced living those beliefs and practices.)
Anyway, the thing that was so interesting in Glass Houses was the Cobrador. It is derived from the Spanish practice involving El Cobrador del Frac — a debt collector in a top hat who follows the debtor around silently, with the aim of shaming him/her into paying the debt. Penny created something different and more sinister by claiming it to be an ancient practice, and by making its purpose be to collect on moral and ethical debts as well as financial. I was disappointed to learn that she made that part up, and like the book a little less when I learned it was not true. I know; that’s not really fair.

Jan 04, 2018

I really enjoy her books. While reading the 1st one, I thought it was more of a young readers book. Found myself by going back for another. Then another. Fell in love with Armand, Henri, the city of Quebec, and the Eastern townships all over again. Her books may not have you biting you nails while perched on the edge of your seat, but they are very enjoyable reads. Keep writing, my dear Ms Penny. And thank you!

Dec 21, 2017

This is a good addition to the series. Certainly recommended to series readers but probably not to "outsiders". For those who are tired of the citizens of Three Pines it's probably time to stop reading but to those of us who fantasize about living there it's wonderful. This is a drugs story as well as a murder mystery. I thought that aspect was very timely since the opioid epidemic is front and center of the news almost daily.

Dec 18, 2017

A new book by Louise Penny is always a treat. This is not the best or the worst of them. It has all the usual characters and themes, but the vaguely threatening thing seemed a bit forced, and the plotline with Gamache's police business I didn't particularly enjoy. You could read this without previous books : you probably don't appreciate the village characters unless you've read a couple of previous books because their token appearances don't go into depth this time, and there's mild spoilers for previous books since those characters are (or aren't) still alive. Still recommend the book!

Dec 16, 2017

This is Hillary Clinton's favourite author, and the reason that
the Clintons holidayed in Quebec recently.

Dec 09, 2017

I liked the book and I've read all of the series. I read these because they are pure escape for me. However, this time I thought the book would never come to an end. For fun I checked a couple of her books 312 and 320 pages - this book clocks in at 400. Reading the book I wondered if she was now copying Scandinavian mysteries because the ones I've read are quite wordy. This book could have done with a little more editing. I also wasn't wild about the drug story in general. Yes, drugs are everywhere but when I read the Gamache series I just want to enjoy the company of everyone at the Bistro with a little murder thrown in.

PimaLib_ChristineR Dec 08, 2017

Another terrific Gamache novel. I enjoyed the split time line which wove in and out of the testimony Gamache gives in the summer about events the previous November. Without giving too much away, I have to say I don't always love the way Penny describes people on drugs, as though all drugs have the same effect and all addicts turn into monsters. Or the idea that a war on drugs can ever truly be "won." Other than these minor points this is another great story that uses repeated imagery and language to pull together the threads that are more like fuses, drawn into one explosive climax. If you already like this series this installment will not disappoint.

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