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A Fatal Grace (Three Pines Mysteries, No. 2) Hardcover – May 15, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 1,144 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When sadistic socialite CC de Poitiers is fatally electrocuted at a Christmas curling competition in the tiny Québecois village of Three Pines, only the arcane method of the murder is a surprise in Penny's artful but overwritten sophomore effort (after her highly praised 2006 debut, Still Life). CC had cobbled together a spiritual guidance business based on eliminating emotion, but the feelings she inspired in others were anything but serene. Everyone around the cartoonish victim—from a daughter cowed by lifelong abuse to the local spiritual teacher whose business she threatens to ruin—has a motive, and the crime also links to a vagrant's recent murder as well as to the pasts of several beloved village residents. The calm but quirky Chief Insp. Armand Gamache, who arrives in Three Pines from Montreal to head the investigation, is appealing as the series' focus. Though Penny gorgeously evokes the smalltown Christmas mood, the novel is oddly steeped in holiday atmosphere for a May release, and the plot's dependence on lengthy backstory slows the momentum. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Quebec Surete Inspector Armand Gamache, who made his debut in Still Life (2006), returns in this enjoyable follow-up. An almost universally disliked, even hated, woman is murdered. Naturally, the pool of potential murderers is deep, ranging from the victim's lover to her friends (well, acquaintances) to various others in the small Canadian community of Three Pines. Gamache, a smart and likable investigator--think Columbo with an accent, or perhaps a modern-day Poirot--systematically wades his way through the pool, coming upon a few surprises along the way. Penny is a careful writer, taking time to establish character and scene, playing around with a large cast, distracting us so we won't see the final twists coming until they're upon us. This is a fine mystery in the classic Agatha Christie style, and it is sure to leave mainstream fans wanting more. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312352565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312352561
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Readers of these excellent books need to be aware that Dead Cold and
A Fatal Grace are the same book - the first one is the British title
and the second the American title - otherwise, no difference! I made
the mistake of ordering them both.... it happens sometimes.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Fatal Grace" is the second in Penny's excellent series featuring Sûreté du Québec Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Gamache returns to the small town of Three Pines when one of its residents is electrocuted during a curling match. It soon becomes clear that this was no accident, it was murder. Gamache discovers the victim, who is not liked by anyone, including her family, is not who she said she was. Slowly, but surely Gamache peels back layer after layer in his search for the killer. With each layer peeled away, he learns something new about the residents of the small town, about the deceased, and about the murderer.

As with all the books in this series, there are recurring characters. While you don't necessarily have to read the series in the order it was written, you will miss the joy of getting to know them as Gamache speaks with each one. While Gamache heads the investigation, his team, including a spy working for the head of the Sûreté du Québec, is instrumental in turning up pieces of the puzzle that Gamache finally puts together in order to discover who the killer was.

One of the things that readers will savor is Penny's ability to coin a phrase. One of my favorites from this book is when Gamache speaks about his deceased dog, "Gamache had had the impression it wasn't that his old heart had stopped, but that Sonny had finally given it away."

Penny's descriptions of the winter weather will have the reader inching up the thermostat so vividly does the author make the reader feel the bitter cold of a winter's day in Quebec.

This is one of the best series being written. Penny is in the same league as P.D. James, Charles Todd, and Laurie R. King. Don't miss this author and her series starting with "Still Life."
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Format: Hardcover
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his officers have been called back to the town of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers, an extremely unpleasant woman, has been murdered in public at the height of a curling match. Figuring out how she was killed is as much a mystery as uncovering who killed her.

Penny's books are deceptive. On one hand, they seem a simple traditional mystery, set in a small town with lots of interesting, quirky characters, lots of suspects from which to choose and good twists and turns along the way. Penny does do dialogue well and her sense of place is evocative. But then there a second layer, hard to describe, but one I find makes me occasionally stop and think while reading and stays with me long after I've closed the book. Penny is one of those I can be being on my very short list of authors to re-read. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the second novel in my favorite new mystery series, and it's every bit as good as the first one. STILL LIFE introduced Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sureté de Québec, and he solved a murder in the colorful village of Three Pines, just a few miles north of the U.S. border. In this new mystery, he's back in Three Pines at Christmastime, looking for another murderer among the eccentric local population.

Every mystery series needs a good detective and a good setting, and Penny is better than most at evoking her small Canadian town and the vivid people in it. And Gamache is a memorable creation--I really hope we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the years ahead. Not since Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot have I found such a likable crimesolver. If you enjoy good writing, fair clues and surprising solutions, you're going to love this series. Highly recommended.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
A word of warning - after thoroughly enjoying "Still Life" and "Dead Cold", I bought "A Fatal Grace" only to find that it was not a new book but "Dead Cold" (published in the UK in 2006) with a different title & a 2007 date of publication for the American market. There was no mention of this in the product information. I also fail to understand why we can't have the same title for readers in the UK, Canada, Australia New Zealand & the US.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed "Still Life" but unfortunately "A Fatal Grace" is not nearly as entertaining. I had the same kind of experience reading it that one of the inhabitants of Three PInes, Clara, had when viewing the Christmas window in a department store in which she formerly had been completely able to lose herself: an unpleasant realization shattered the fantasy.

A psychopathic minor Martha Stewart is murdered in Three Pines at Christmas. She is a woman so horrible that most of the villagers have motives to kill her. Inspector Gamache of the Surete believes that the key to her death lies in her mysterious past which seems to be somehow connected to Three Pines.

The characters from "Still Life" reappear, but instead of being quirky and eccentric, they are now overdrawn black-or-white cardboard figures. The village is no longer just charming--it's greeting card perfect. Inspector Gamache, always too good to be true, is now a saint. Apparitions of God appear. The victim is an impossibly motivated woman with a literally unbelievable rationale. A subplot having to do with politics within the Surete is supposed to draw us further into the series, but really seems an unnecessary distraction.

However, Ms. Penny's work has moments of descriptive power and good humor, and I have to confess to enjoying the descriptions of Three Pines during the Christmas season in spite of myself. I hope her future novels return to the level of her first.
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