Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

First Sentence:  "This doesn't feel right, patron." 

Having discovered Louise from the beginning, she has always been a "must-read" author. Still, every author has an "off" book, and this was one.

From the first page, there was a feeling of "Too soon, it's too soon." The pandemic is far from over; it may never be. The controversial character is one some may recognize. The themes focused more on practices from the past, which were truly appalling, and their possible application in the present, an equally appalling thought.  While those issues deserved to be highlighted, there was a heavy-handedness that rather overtook the mystery itself.

On the positive side, it was nice going back to the beginning of Armand's relationship with a young Jean-Guy, including the four sentences of wisdom, as well as the quote from "The Little Prince"--"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret.  It is only with the heart that one can see rightly:  what is essential is invisible to the eye."  The use of profane nicknames was initially amusing. Now, they feel overused.  There must be a better way to exemplify the complexity of Ruth.

The biggest issue was the need for serious editing; two-hundred fewer pages would have been a significant improvement.   There is much that is profound and important here, and Louise remains one of the most quotable authors to be found. Unfortunately, it becomes lost in redundancy.  As with fine cooking, the best dishes are made with only a few ingredients but made perfectly. 

Not that there weren't high points. The best was the scene between Armand and Jean-Guy in the pub. It was powerful and emotional; something at which Louise is particularly skilled. 

"The Madness of Crowds" is only one of three, out of 17 books, which was disappointing.  All-in-all, that's not bad and many will disagree with that assessment.  Here's hoping Louise's next book goes back to the basics of character and mystery, and less focus on social issues.  

THE MADNESS OF CROWDS (PolProc-Armand Gamache-Three Pines, Canada-Contemp)- Okay
Penny, Louise - 17th in series
Minotaur Books - 2021 - 432 pp.


  1. Sorry to hear you didn't like this better than you did. You make a really interesting point, though, about the value of editing. Everyone needs a good editor! I'm with you, too, on the focus of a well-written mystery novel; it may be just my taste, but I prefer crime fiction where the main focus is the crime/mystery plot. I don't mind social issues being addressed; they're important and should be addressed. But I like the focus on the main plot.

    1. I agree that social issues are important but it was truly the lack of editing that let this book down. There are so many books written in late 2019/2020 and released in 2020 I felt weren't up to an author's usual standard. I do wonder whether the pandemic is the cause with lack of focus, and worry, both on the part of the writers and the editors.

  2. LJ, I know you waited until you felt ready to write this review. I agree with you that this was an "off" book. In fact, I totally agree with you on your comments. This is one of the few Louise Penny books that will not make my favorites list at the end of the year. It felt too soon, as you said. And, she ruined one of my favorite quotes from the series. It was disappointing.

    1. Hi Lesa - I did, and then rewrote it at least four times as it was so hard for me to find the words without being angry. No, it won't make my top list this year either. We should talk as I want to know which quote, and also ask whether I'm right about her also switching a character. The good news, though, is that I loved "State of Terror."