A Fatal Grace Summary

Louise Penny

A Fatal Grace

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A Fatal Grace Summary

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The second book in The Chief Inspector Gamache series, A Fatal Grace (aka Dead Cold) is Canadian author Louise Penny’s 2006 cozy-mystery crime-thriller. Set during Christmastime in the fictional Quebecois village of Three Pines, the story follows Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he investigates the death of a reviled woman, CC de Poitiers. When CC is publicly electrocuted during the town’s annual curling competition, the crime scene is left with few clues, suspects, or witnesses. Chief Inspector Gamache is called upon to dig beneath the surface of the tranquil town, unearth dark secrets and hidden motives, identify the killer, and try to restore peaceful order to Three Pines. A Fatal Grace won the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel and has been hailed as “a highly intelligent mystery” by Library Journal.

Narrated from a limited third-person perspective, the story begins during the winter in the fictional town of Three Pines, Quebec. The first sentence foretells the death of the cruel and unlikable CC de Poitiers, a writer and trendy self-help guru with many enemies in town. Before the grisly details of CC’s murder are given, her fourteen-year-old daughter, Crie, tries to win her mother’s affection by performing in a Christmas pageant. Crie, overweight and socially awkward, has been dieting for over a month in hopes her mother notices. However, CC doesn’t even bother to show up to Crie’s pageant to see the homemade dress her daughter worked so hard on. CC also fails to give her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift, opting instead to spend time in a seedy hotel with her boyfriend, Saul.

Clara Morrow, a local Three Pines painter, travels to Montreal to marvel at department store Christmas decorations. Clara and her husband, Peter, have been starving artists in Three Pines for years; when Clara learns CC knows a man who owns an art gallery, she musters the courage to ask CC for help. CC insults Clara’s artwork, denying her request. On her way out, a vagrant bag lady tells Clara she always loved her paintings.

On Christmas Eve, Crie partakes in a public caroling event. After the recital, CC berates Crie in front of the whole town, calling her a “stupid, stupid girl.” The day after Christmas, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of Surete is called in to investigate the sudden and shocking death of CC de Poitiers, the macabre details of which seem too suspicious to be accidental. Gamache, who is already working on a case in Montreal in which the vagrant bag lady Clara had spoken with has been strangled, accepts, arriving in Three Pines the next day. He brings his wife, Reine-Marie, and first in command, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

CC has been killed in an extreme fashion. She was electrocuted on a frozen lake during the town’s annual curling competition, in front of everyone. Yet, nobody saw a thing. There are no witnesses, and just as many clues left behind. Given how detested CC is in town, Chief Inspector Gamache has no shortage of suspects to interrogate when he arrives in Three Pines. Assembling his team of investigators, he begins questioning the townsfolk, unlocking the mysteries and motives relating to Three Pines’ darkest secrets. Beauvoir explains that for CC to be electrocuted, she had to stand in water, remove her gloves, touch something electric, and do so while wearing metal spikes in her shoes. As such, the investigators rule CC’s death a premeditated murder. Agent Yvette Nichols, the newest team member, joins Gamache and the others in Three Pines to help investigate.

Gamache discovers CC fabricated her identity, lying about who her parents were. While out walking one night, Gamache meets Emelie (Em) Longpre, an elderly citizen of Three Pines. Em tells Gamache that the bag lady strangled in Montreal was Elle (Eleanor Allaire), CC’s mother. Em and her two friends, Kaye Thompson and Bea Mayer, used to be close with Elle when growing up together in Three Pines years ago. Elle had a history of mental illness, and when she got pregnant with CC, she left Three Pines. CC was taken from Elle, and Elle was placed in a psychiatric hospital. Years later, when The Three Graces (Em, Kaye, and Bea) encountered Elle on the streets, they encouraged her to start life anew, but Elle refused. Because of this, The Three Graces feel responsible for CC’s death.

Saul develops photos from the curling match the day CC was murdered, hoping to find clues. Finding none, he tosses the last undeveloped roll of film into the fireplace when Gamache and company question him at his rented chalet. A giant fire breaks out, from which Gamache, Beauvoir, and Nichols attempt to rescue Saul. The Three Graces leave a note for Gamache confessing to the murder of CC, explaining that they plan to commit suicide by freezing to death at the curling rink. Gamache honors their wishes but realizes that the women could not have murdered CC, as they did not understand the significance of the metal spikes in CC’s boots that led to her electrocution. Gamache attempts to save the women, but Em dies of hypothermia.

Gamache is told that CC killed her mother, Elle. Gamache then visits CC’s house and confronts Crie about CC’s murder. After fantasizing about being on the beach with a boyfriend, Crie confesses to the crime. Gamache arrests Crie for murdering CC. The novel ends on New Year’s Day, as Gamache and Reine-Marie leave Three Pines and return home.

In addition to the seven-edition Chief Inspector Armand Gamache book series, Louise Penny has written several other novels. Her works include The Hangman, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets In, The Long Way Home, The Nature of the Beast, A Great Reckoning, Glass Houses, and Kingdom of the Blind.