Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review for KINGDOM OF THE BLIND


Buckle up, people! 

I have many, many thoughts about this book, and series in general, and Louise Penny.

In no particular order...

1. The beginning of this book is strong. As always. One of Louise Penny's strengths is her beginnings. She sucks you right into the story with the characters, the mystery, the unknown. Everything feels profound. She throws in poetry. Philosophy. Art.

Strangely, however, the familiarity of the characters/town we know actually dragged this story down. That is no longer a strong point for the series, but a detriment. 

At one point, there was a scene with our familiar cast of characters, in their familiar setting, and I thought to myself..."I've read this before." It's getting redundant, and that's a bad thing. Dialogue feels recycled, character reactions feel recycled, even the twists/big reveals are things we've seen before (Gamache has a big secret...yeah, we know. HE ALWAYS HAS A BIG SECRET).

2. There are certain scenes/moments/events in this book with huge impact. The collapse of the house, the angst-filled scenes with Amelia returning to her old life. I love the whole symbolism of the house collapsing/the family collapsing. Penny did an extraordinary job bringing that symbolic event to life. 

Unfortunately, these are overshadowed by many tedious scenes that dragged and ruined the pacing of the narrative. Too many scenes with financial folks, figuring out documents, etc. These bits were dull and ruined the energy and flow of this story.

3. Pacing was a problem. The flow of the story felt disjointed. Usually, I find that Penny does an excellent job blending high-action scenes with internal POV, character bits with setting and storyline. But it was pretty choppy going in this book.

4. I love fiction that blends multiple storylines. This is a trademark for the Gamache Series. Sometimes, it works very well, and sometimes it's not as successful.

The parallel storylines for this book--the Baumgartner will and the continuation of the drug storyline from the last book (GLASS HOUSES)--did not work well together, IMO. There has to be both contrast and commonality for blended storylines to work. 

The mystery about the Baumgartner family started very strong, then fizzled and died.

The storyline about Amelia had its strong moments as well, but the "twist"--Gamache has a secret from everyone else--is something we've already seen in this series. That reveal was disappointing.

The "reveal" about the Baumgartners also lacked punch. It was fairly expected.

That was the biggest disappointment about this book for me...it started with a lot of energy and suspense, and it all sort of fizzled out and died by the end. 

The "post-mortem" scene at the end (everyone sitting around and discussing who/how/why-dunnit) was painful. It was an uninspired way to resolve the main mystery of this book.  

I do appreciate a few new characters thrown into the Three Pines world--even the promise of romance for some of our regular characters--but that is not enough to pump fresh life into this series.

5. My big assessment about The Gamache Series: This series has lost its magic. Louise Penny has not, however, lost her magical touch as a writer. She just needs to use her "powers" with a new project.

She needs a new town, new characters, maybe even try out a new genre.

She has a lot left to say, and a wonderful way to say it. But Gamache and his buddies and Three Pines have been wrung out like a wet sponge. 

I got the feeling several times that Penny is writing her "default" setting with this series. I honestly feel like it's wasting her talents.

6. Most series drag on too long. There's a fine line (or not) between exploring and re-exploring the same characters/relationships, watching them change and grow. At some point, it's done.

You know a series is still working when you return to that world and it's like putting on a favorite snuggly cardigan and going along for a wonderful adventure with "friends."

I didn't get that feeling this time. My friends felt flat and almost cartoonish. The mystery became predictable and underwhelming. 

Even Gamache, who is one of my all-time favorite characters, was missing something.

Overall grade for KINGDOM OF THE BLIND: Disappointed.

Here's hoping Louise Penny tries something new and different soon. I would really like to see that happen!


Signing off from Watsonville,
Penny/Nina

2 comments:

Tasha B. said...

I know exactly what you mean about reading a book and feeling like the writer is going through the motions. Maybe this is just a blip in the series and not the end

Penny Watson said...

Hey Tasha! I think there is a real danger of "default setting" with very long series. Not sure most series should extend beyond 7-8 books.