What struck me reading this book, was how Penny used the forces of nature to complement the action in the story. Gamache and Beauvoir running through the muck of an early April thaw, emphasized the danger, the struggle and the urgency of the two law enforcement officers attempting to identify a killer. And later, when the resolution was clear, everyone was safe, and the harsh winter was past, I literally got chills when I read this: “By that afternoon, the sun was out in full force. Snowdrops and fragrant, delicate lily of the valley were beginning to appear. Crocuses broke through the grass of the village green. Life had not just been restored, it had burst forth…”
Once again, I marvel at the complexity of the plot and wonder how Penny mapped it out. I get the sense that her plots are carefully planned, and that her characters do not write themselves, as I have heard some authors say. And once again, I did not figure out the who, the how and the why. But when everything was resolved, it made sense and did not seem contrived. I do so love these characters!
There were literary references, this time mainly from Moby Dick. “All the truth without malice in it,” was repeated many times in connection to the murder. One of the lessons Gamache taught the officers he mentored was to ask yourself three questions before speaking: “Is it true? Is it kind? Does it need to be said?” Pretty good things to ask yourself when you’re thinking about having a difficult conversation with someone, or any converstaion, for that matter.
The endpapers were lovely, designed by Maryanna Coleman. When I went to her website, there was a video of a bookstore front table with stacks of A Better Man on it. The cover was different than the library book I read, so I’m assuming that the pictured copy might have been the Canadian version. In the video, someone opens the cover revealing the endpaper which was different from the one pictured above. It was a more dramatic rendering of three pines.
THE FOOD: There’s always food in the series, which makes it pretty easy for me to do this section of the blog. Because a lot of the books take place during the winter, they are usually plenty of soups, which is great, because one of my great culinary loves is soup! This one was served by Gabri and Olivier from the Bistro, when Gamache and his team set up headquarters in Three Pines in the old railway station which also served as the town firehouse.
CHICKEN GARLIC GINGER SOUP
2 T olive oil
2 T fresh garlic, minced
2 T fresh ginger, minced
1 T ginger paste (optional)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 large sweet onion, finely diced
1 C chopped chicken (rotisserie works very well)
1 C fresh carrot, sliced
32 ounces chicken broth
3 C water, more if you want more broth
½ C basmati rice
2 C fresh spinach
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add fresh garlic, fresh ginger, and onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add ginger paste if using, cayenne pepper, and salt & pepper to taste. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add the chicken broth, water, carrots and rice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add spinach and cooked chicken and let cook for 5 more minutes before serving.
This was delicious and filling. I couldn’t stop eating it.