Reviewing the First Seven Books in the Armand Gamache Series

Since I have fallen way behind on these, I’m going to give a general overview of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series through the first seven books. I’m currently reading the eighth book, because there is a lot about the characters and the series I really enjoy. As you will see, something bothers me and may result in my not finishing the series.

Armand Gamache is the chief homicide inspector in the Canadian province of Quebec. As a fan of mystery and detective stories, Gamache is one of my favorite characters. I love how he solves his cases without using violence unless violence is absolutely necessary. His focus on people’s emotions is also pretty unique for fictional detectives. But what I like most about Gamache is the way he works to downplay his ego. He is accepting of his fallibility and open to learning from his mistakes. He knows he doesn’t always have the answers and he encourages those working for him to reach their potential and credits them when they do something good.

I also enjoy the characters that surround Gamache and the places where he works. Penny does a great job creating interesting, flawed characters and working them into complicated plots that highlight their strengths and weaknesses.

The interesting scenes Penny paints and the way they figure into the stories is also interesting and sometimes educational.

Even though I have been close to addicted to the series for the last few weeks, I’m not sure I will finish. Unfortunately, Louise Penny is pretty ableist. She regularly discusses disabilities as flaws and credits people for helping people with disabilities who actually pity them and are helping at least as much for personal gain than to help.

While ableism is unfortunately often present, Penny seems to go out of her way to demonstrate her ableism leading me to conclude she may be one of those people who is so ableist they believe their ableism is helpful and could never imagine they are ableist.

While there is much I love about the series, sometimes my skin crawls. Since there isn’t a need for a discussion of disability in the series, Penny would have been wise to steer clear of subject matter she isn’t as prepared to discuss as she believes. Sure, most readers may agree with Penny’s ableism, but an author has a responsibility to do better than encourage pity and exclusion when writing.

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