“… Gamache knew it was the only way he could find a murderer. He listened to people, took notes, gathered evidence, like all his colleagues. But he did one more thing.
He gathered feelings. He collected emotions. Because murder was deeply human. It wasn’t about what people did. No, it was about how they felt, because that’s where it all started. Some feeling that had once been human and natural had twisted. Become grotesque. Had turned sour and corrosive until its very container had been eaten away. Until the human barely existed.
It took years for an emotion to reach that stage. Years of careful nurturing, protecting, justifying, tending and finally burying it. Alive.
Then one day it clawed its way out, something terrible.
Something that had only one goal. To take a life.
Armand Gamache found murderers by following the trail of rancid emotions.”
(Louise Penny, The Cruellest Month, p. 97 — Her debut novel)
Louise Penny is one of the few writers I don’t skim. Her writing makes me think, sends chills up my spine and holds my imagination captive. It’s commercial fiction, but she is one of those writers whose prose is so rich with imagery and emotion that it blurs the divide. I savor her distinct style and imaginative storytelling. For a reader, discovering Louise Penny for the first time is like discovering water in a desert.
I like this quote because the idea that you can catch a murderer by collecting feelings intrigues me. Following the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, fictional detectives usually focus on evidence and deductive reasoning. But Penny’s, Chief Inspector Gamache from the famed Surete digs deeper. He looks inside our heart…into our very soul and picks it apart.
Need I mention she opens with a seance and a haunted house? She holds the reader with her skilled pen. “Her deceptively simple style masks the complex pattern of a well-devised plot” (New York Times)
CI Gamache intrigues me, and Penny makes me want to deepen aspects of my mystery writing. That’s what I’m thinking about today.