Tag: Ellie Beals

Ellie’s Book Review – All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

Ellie’s Book Review – All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

Missing Three Pines (4/5 stars)

I have been a long-time fan of Louise Penny’s. Her writing is so descriptive that it feels like I can roll around in her descriptions of people, places and food (OMG – the food descriptions!) like a northern dog rolls in snow. The depth, clarity, uniqueness and believability of her characters is compelling. I love Chief Inspector Gamache with all my heart, and feel close to the same affection for the quirky group of residents that inhabit the hard-to-find village of Three Pines.​

All the Devils Are Are Here is not set in Three Pines. It unfolds in Paris. The Parisian setting may be the reason I gave All the Devils are Here four stars, as opposed to the five I would have awarded to every other of Penny’s preceding Inspector Gamache novels, all of which were set in Three Pines, Quebec. It may simply be that I miss the places and faces I’ve grown to love. Of course, Penny has brought her legendary descriptive prowess to Paris. But as a creature of habit — that didn’t displace the degree to which I missed Three Pines.​

I also found the plot didn’t unfold with the same sense of natural inevitablity I’ve experienced in her previous books. It felt like I had to accept some of the premises that moved the plot forward as a matter of faith, rather than seeing for myself why and how Gamache and crew considered them to be benchmarks leading to solutions. I acknowledge that this may simply be a reading failure on my part. I have long believed that Louise Penny is smarter than I am. But usually her books do not make me feel inadequate, and in places here — I did.​

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did, and I consider four-stars to reflect my feeling that this is a very good read, and one well-worth undertaking. However, I would recommend that anyone who hasn’t already read any of the preceding Inspector Gamache novels, start with one of her Three Pines settings, rather than leaping immediately to Paris.

Ellie’s Book Review – Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman

Ellie’s Book Review – Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman

Skillfully Wrought But Not Compelling (3.5/5 stars)

I wanted to love this book. Kellerman, and his protagonists Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis are like old friends from whom I’d been separated for many years. I don’t know why it’s been so long since I read one of Kellerman’s Alex Delaware novels….it just happened. But I assumed that just as you quickly fall back into the patterns of long and comfortable association with old friends in your “real” life – I hoped and trusted that would be the case when I read Serpentine.

And my hopes were at first, realized. Alex and Milo are as well-drawn as ever (perhaps better than ever, for Milo) and Kellerman still delivers the powerfully vivid descriptions I’ve always loved. His accounts of his characters’ appearance, including their clothing, remain brilliant. I do not understand why knowing not only the style and color of garments worn, but also the details of jewelry, are so important to me. But they are, and I repeated old patterns by often reveling in Kellerman’s descriptive acumen, reading those passages a number of times before moving on. I’ve always enjoyed the same descriptive detail about food. The food descriptions ARE good – but in Serpentine, for me, there are just too many of them. Do these people never stop eating?!!! How can they even move, proceeding as they do from one huge meal to another? At some point, surely, they say “Enough – let’s just have some scrambled eggs and toast for dinner”?

OK – that was a pretty snitty comment. But it is indicative. Of what? I think of my growing feeling as the book progressed, that there just wasn’t enough action. The Kellerman series has always been cerebral – more brain than gut, no visceral nausea-induction, regardless of the violence of the crimes described. I like Kellerman’s moderation – I’m grateful that he isn’t a practitioner of either the gore-splattered pages of Clayton Lindemuth, or of too-cozy-for-me mysteries, with their stylized and antiseptic crimes from a distance. But in this case, I found it all too cerebral – the suspense which I want built through inaction that eventually escalates into a more visceral threat – just didn’t build all that well. I was curious, but far from enthralled. That means my bottom line (3.5/5 stars) is that I give Serpentine a good nod for the fine, writerly technique Kellerman continues to display, but a less stellar assessment than I’d hoped to provide, because it simply wasn’t all that compelling.