I never thought this day would come. This is the first time I've been disappointed in a book written by Louise Penny, and making this admission hurts. I'm so used to writing glowing reviews of her work-- her fascinating, in-depth character studies, the sheer poetry of her descriptions-- that I'd rather not say a word at all, but...
The Nature of the Beast just doesn't measure up to her previous books. Once again we have murders in Three Pines, a tiny village that's become the Cabot Cove of Quebec. Gone are her mouth-watering descriptions of meals eaten at the bistro. Gone are her insightful characterizations. Always before even the worst of her characters have been shown to have shreds of humanity. Here characters like John Fleming are simply evil.
In previous books, Penny would've broken our hearts with little Laurent's fate. Here he's little more than a plot device. I also experienced great anticipation knowing that my favorite character, Ruth Zardo, would have a larger role in this book, but her part fell flat. In fact, the entire book felt flat and slow.
In The Nature of the Beast, too many things stretched belief beyond breaking point-- even something based in truth like the "Whore of Babylon." I am familiar with Penny's current circumstances. Her beloved husband has Alzheimer's, and they've had to move from their idyllic life in the country to a condo in Montreal. Loved ones come before books. They always should. I've seen the deep affection her fans feel for Louise Penny. I am one of those fans, and I don't think I'm the only one who would rather she take some time off instead of risk causing irreparable harm to characters and to a village so many of us adore.