Families can be complicated and in the hands of a skilled mystery writer, untangling those bonds can make for a fantastic read. Two that should be on your list: Louise Penny’s A Better Man and J.A. Jance’s Sins of the Fathers.
Penny’s series features Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec who is still recovering physically, mentally, and professionally from a violent attack that almost cost him and his son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, their lives. At present, Gamache and Beauvoir are sharing the title of Chief Superintendent, but Beauvoir is putting in his final days before taking a job in the private sector and moving to Paris with Anne, his wife and Gamache’s daughter, and their children. And Beauvoir’s last case will once again place him and his father-in-law in danger.
On the surface, the case seems straightforward. A woman, Vivienne Godin, has gone missing. Her father, Homer, believes she has been killed by her husband, Carl Tracey, a potter who was known to physically abuse his wife. The search for Vivienne is complicated by a major storm that hits Québec while threatening Garmache’s small village of Three Pines as the Bella Bella river rises.
Gamache’s wife, Reine-Marie, works with the village’s quirky group of residents – poet Ruth, who never goes anywhere without her duck, Clara, an artist whose career is suffering after several bad reviews, and Oliver, who runs the local cafe – to fill sand bags, hoping to hold back the waters. After Vivienne’s body is found floating in the Bella Bella, Garmache must work hard to prevent Homer from killing Carl. And while the potter is the primary suspect, others soon turn up. Vivienne was pregnant and Carl says he wasn’t the father. Did the baby’s father kill her? Or another woman who was hoping to marry Carl?
Penny’s series never disappoints. Not only does she craft an intriguing mystery, but we are drawn in by her characters. Gamache is the central figure, a police officer who never holds grudges and is always loyal to his colleagues but, most of all, to his family. The eclectic supporting cast provides lighthearted moments away from the violence that Gamache constantly battles.
J.A. Jance’s popular J.P. Beaumont is no longer part of the Homicide Unit at the Seattle police department. He’s now married to Melissa Soames, the police chief in Bellingham, Washington, and works as a private investigator. Money is not a problem for Beau since he inherited a fortune after the death of his second wife, Anne Corley. He devotes his off hours to Lucy, an Irish wolfhound he’s fostering after she was seriously injured in an attack, and can pick and choose his projects,
One that arrives on his doorstep will hit close to home. Alan Dale’s daughter, Jasmine, was a rock singer whose career and life were cut short by drug use. Jasmine’s daughter, Naomi, gave birth to Athena and then walked out of the hospital. Alan is now caring for his granddaughter and trying to find Naomi. Beau offers to have Alan and Athena stay in his condo in Belltown Terrace. He also lines up a good friend, Marge, to assist with child care.
While Beau wants to help Alan, he also has a personal reason for getting involved. Years ago, he had a one night stand with Jasmine. After seeing a photo of Naomi, Beau is struck by the resemblance to his daughter, Kelly. Could Naomi also be his daughter? And how would he break that news to her, Alan, Kelly, and his son, Scott?
Beau does find Naomi in a homeless encampment and convinces her to go to a shelter. Alan is willing to take responsibility for raising Athena, but he needs Naomi to sign away parental rights. After Naomi identifies the father, Petey, Beau also needs to locate the young man who has gone missing. And when Petey’s remains are found, Beau knows he’s now looking for a killer.
J.A. Jance is brilliant at crafting police procedurals. While Beau is now a P.I., once a police detective, always a police detective. We follow every aspect of his investigation, studying the evidence along the way. Beau, however, is not a hardcore cop. He has a heart and is loved by Mel and his son and daughter. In Sins of the Father, he adds to that family.
A Better Man
Sins of the Fathers
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