Louise Penny is one of the world’s most beloved mystery authors. At the recent Malice Domestic conference, where she won the coveted Agatha Award for Best Mystery, fans flocked to her signing, most carrying her recent best seller, The Beautiful Mystery.
I had brought a book for the signing, too, but it was one that most fans in line had never seen: The Hangman.
The Hangman’s jacket copy begins: “On a cold November morning, a jogger runs through the woods
Does it have the elements of a Three Pines mystery? The sometimes thorny/sometimes tender relationship between Chief Inspector Gamache and his second, Beauvoir? Favorite characters like bookseller/wise woman, Myrna, and innkeeper, Gabri? Check, check, and check.
You’re thinking, Why haven’t I heard of this book?
The Hangman is a novella in the Good Reads series, a program funded in part by Canada’s Office of Literacy and Essential Skills. This program provides high interest novellas by fine authors for adult learners of English or those who are learning to read as adults.
As a reader, I was thrilled to get my hands on a new-to-me book by Louise Penny. As a writer, I was impressed by her ability to tell a story within the limits of a third grade reading level and compressed narrative length. If anything, these constraints highlighted the good bones of the story – the elegant simplicity of the plot, the surprise twists, the brisk but effective characterization. Writing to these requirements would be a good exercise for any writer – to construct a story, using only the most essential narrative material, and see if the story can stand.
Is the story as rich as the other Three Pines novels? The novella length does not allow for deep exploration of emotion and motive, but simple does not mean simplistic. The story still satisfies.
The Hangman may be just the thing to help you get through the wait for the next Three Pines novel. And purchasing The Hangman will raise funds for Good Reads Canada, an organization that enables more people to share the joy of reading.
I’ll lift my teacup to that!