The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Gamache)
by Louise Penny
Cover Artist: Photo by Christopher Piggott
Review by Verna Suit
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250022080
Date: 25 August 2015 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Young Laurent LePage bounds into the Three Pines bistro and starts babbling about a HUMONGOUS gun that he's found in the forest. Everybody thinks he's just letting his imagination run away with him again, until the boy ends up dead. And until now-retired Chief Inspector Armand Gamache discovers the humongous gun for himself.
The giant gun turns out to be none other than Gerald Bull's Super Gun, which made headlines in the 1980s. How it got into the woods near Three Pines is the central mystery of the book, along with who killed Laurent and why. Soon there's a second murder that surely must be connected.
Also unexplained are the true identities of the various people who show up in Three Pines after the gun's discovery, and their true motives for coming. It could be that Bull's Super Gun is not merely a curious piece of history from the last century. But what possible connection could there be between Bull and the infamous serial killer John Fleming, now safely locked up in a maximum security prison?
The author's choice of Project Babylon, the name Bull gave to his supersized armaments program, as the central plot element is a stroke of genius. Project Babylon itself was surrounded by mysteries, not least of which was the 1990 murder of Bull himself. The subject of arming various Middle Eastern players is as timely today as it was 30 years ago. This real-life enigma, plus another satisfying visit with the unique Three Pines residents, help make The Nature of the Beast a terrific read.
After being somewhat disappointed by Penny's last book, The Long Way Home, I'm very pleased to see that she's back in stride. Gamache no longer seems to be hanging around aimlessly. He's actively contemplating "What next?" In fact, he's inundated by job offers, from both law enforcement and academia. I'm already salivating for Penny's next book in order to find out what path he chooses.