Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for August: (8/3) Dianne Freeman (8/10) Daryl Wood Gerber (8/17) E. B. Davis's Review of Granite Oath, James M. Jackson's new novel (8/24) Rose Kerr (8/31) V. M. Burns.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Louise Penny Book You've Never Heard Of

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
in the peaceful Quebec village of Three Pines. On his run, he finds a dead man hanging from a tree….”

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!


Jim Jackson said...


You’ve made excellent points regarding the value of novellas (and short stories) to sharpen one’s writing. I was talking with a writer friend recently and he made the same pitch for sharpening your dialogue by writing a screen play.

I’m in the midst of the first draft of my next novel, so all such thoughts of experimentation are out of the question for me right now. However, they suggest possible interesting experiments for the future.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I wish I were a Louise Penny fan since her series has so many books. I love it when I find a good series I haven't yet read. Even though I'm not a fan of the series, she's a great writer. Being able to put the story on a third-grade level necessitates talent. Those adult readers are lucky to have an adult read made simple. You librarians know all the little known tidbits! Thanks for letting us know.

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for sharing I had no idea about the book or the program.

Joanne Guidoccio said...

Shari, Thanks for sharing that interesting tidbit with us. I love Louise Penny's books and have read all of them. I'll look into reading the novella.

Gloria Alden said...

I'm a big fan of Louise Penny, but I'd never heard of this Novella. I love the depth of her stories.

Thanks for letting us know about it.
Since I taught 3rd grade for 20 years, I won't even mind that it's at a third grade level. :-)

Linda Rodriguez said...

Shari, thanks for alerting me to this. I'm a big Louise Penny fan, though I haven't read THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY yet. (Time for reading, why have you shrunk so?)

It takes a lot of skill to keep the interest of an adult book and still bring it in at a third-grade reading level. Kudos to her!

Shari Randall said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. The proceeds from this novella support an excellent literacy charity.
And what a challenging writing exercise, indeed.

Elaine Will Sparber said...

Novellas seem to be making a comeback. Or am I just noticing them lately? Whatever the reason, I'll have to read this one. I love fun ways to contribute to good causes.

Shari Randall said...

Thanks, Elaine, same here!