It’s going to be all right, as they say (in Quebecois French) in this novel. After a long wait caused by so many other library patrons, I finally had a chance to read A World of Curiosities, the latest Three Pines mystery by Louise Penny. It was well worth the wait. This may be the best of the long-running series.
No spoilers here, but a few general comments. First of all, a lot of people seem to be laboring under the incorrect impression that Penny writes cozies. I suppose that’s because her books take place in a small village—but therein ends the similarity. They are not cozies but police procedurals, in which one of the characters is the Quebec village of Three Pines. I’ve read the entire series and have written six posts about several of these books before:
- Louise Penny (9/14/2014)
- A Penny for Your Thoughts (9/2/2018)
- “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” (2/1/2020)
- All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny (6/16/2021)
- A near-future dystopian novel by a Canadian woman author: any guesses who the author is? (10/13/2021)
- A work of (mostly) fiction by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny (11/29/2021)
If you have any interest at all in Louise Penny, I recommend that you read those six earlier posts, and then you should probably read the novels in order. You can actually read and understand A World of Curiosities without having read the earlier books, although you would be missing much of the background.
As I said, no spoilers. But I can venture a couple more comments. First of all, if you don’t get too immersed in the plot, you will also be thinking about the three underlying themes of the novel (IMHO): complexity, forgiveness, and hope. There’s both good and evil in this novel (and in the entire Three Pines series), but the main characters are all complex. There’s always forgiveness. And in the end there’s hope.
Second, I should say that I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by the wonderful Robert Bathurst. The narration makes the story come alive, giving it a “you are here” feeling, but I don’t know whether reading the print version would be equivalent. One thing that might be clearer in the print version—at least for those who haven’t read the earlier novels—is that there are quite a few flashbacks.
Third, the book’s title could use a little explanation. It is the nickname for a famous Dutch painting, circa 1665, actually titled “The Paston Treasure.” As Casey Stengel (and others) have said, “you can look it up.” The painting and an altered copy of it play a pivotal role in A World of Curiosities. You will have to read the book to find out how, but you’re going to do that anyway, aren’t you?