A World of Curiosities (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #18) by Louise Penny
Published by Minotaur Books
Publication date: November 29, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
I’ve had my ups and downs with the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny, but I’m beginning another week with another big claim: her latest, A World of Curiosities, is the best one yet. In it, Penny mashes up the past and the present to reinforce the history of friends and foes alike. The past is represented by going back to the scene of a woman’s murder, when Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Agent Jean-Guy Beauvoir, his second-in-command, first meet. In the present day, an ominous 150-year-old letter is delivered that leads to the discovery of a hidden room in a Three Pines home. While everyone else is amused and intrigued Gamache worries that a long-forgotten danger from the past is back to threaten the present.
Penny re-assembles the town’s entire cast of familiar and beloved characters in A World of Curiosities, including the misanthropic poet Ruth, bookstore owner Myrna, and B&B proprietor Gabri. She enfolds newcomers such a minister and his wife, and, there to celebrate their graduation from engineering school, Fiona and Harriet. Fiona is the daughter of the woman murdered a decade ago and Harriet is Myrna’s niece. The town’s mild curiosity morphs into something darker when the hidden room is opened and found to contain items linked to each of them. But the strangest surprise is the presence of a large mural, known as the World of Curiosities—a famous painting from the 1800s with clues buried throughout its canvas.
Penny’s prowess is welcome with all the moving pieces in A World of Curiosities. Faltering or accelerating too fast around a curve could have easily wrecked the novel. Instead, she presses on, adding more elements and details, all of which keep the story moving forward at an increasing speed and tension. At the same time, Penny lets her characters stay in their lanes, without some of the more outlandish antics that have cropped up in the past. It ensured that A World of Curiosities was stellar, engrossing reading.
If Penny’s writing style sounds interesting and you like mysteries but don’t want to start a series, her novel, State of Terror is outstanding.
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