Although it has some predictable elements – the lovable rogue cop, the clueless (almost unbelievably so) rookie, the unnecessary and unrealistically violent ending – this is an outstanding first Chief Gamache mystery. It took me some time, but I think I figured out what makes it so different and so good. It’s the minor characters. Instead of just focusing on the cop and his (of course, his) team as well as the antagonist, Penny develops a wide range of supporting characters. It is impressive that she took the time to do so because I don’t think she can return to them for the next installment, can she? I will miss them.

Penny creates one of the most memorable images I’ve ever encountered. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it will stay with me in the same way as the image Myla Goldberg creates in the storage area in Bee Season.

The title is perfect. The characters – almost all of them – are incredibly human. A Fatal Grace will be next.

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