Posts tagged with: Louise Penny

Challenging POV

There are a lot of “rules” when it comes to point of view. There is first person, often used in young adult and mysteries, and often either loved or hated by readers. There is third person, often used in romance. This is the basis for deep third person POV, which has been particularly popular for the last few years. The “rules” say you can only have two, the hero and heroine, or three, the hero, heroine, and villain. There is omniscient POV, once popular and now guaranteed to gain you a low score in any contest if a POV purist is judging.

Any POV needs to be handled clearly and competently by the author. That’s one rule that should always be kept. And as authors, we need to remember that different readers like different styles of POV.

Being a mystery writer, I thought I was one who preferred first person until I read Louise Penny. Bury Your Dead is a Chief Inspector Gamache mystery and uses a large number of points of view with dexterity and clarity. At one point, after a police interview with an English speaking witness who can read French fluently but struggles with spoken French, there is one paragraph in the POV of a police constable taking notes. The policeman is never named, but the story would have been poorer if  a POV purist editor had removed this paragraph. This same man gets another paragraph in his POV many pages later as another witness is interviewed. Again, it enriches the story.

And then a page or two later, the POV changes from the chief investigator to a witness for four paragraphs before it returns back to the chief investigator.

The next chapter changes POV to a different investigator in another town. This frequent changing continues on for the entire book. I was never confused, but I was fascinated. I’d never read a book with so many POV shifts, or if I had, it was probably thrown at the wall. The story drew me in to such a degree I didn’t notice until I was well into the story. By then, I didn’t care about anything but the story.

And that taught me something. It’s not the POV, it’s not the rules, it’s all about the story. And if it works, that’s all that matters.


Kate Parker continues to write both the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries and the Deadly series in first person. Her entries into the Christmas Revels anthology series are in third person, but without the flair with which Louise Penny uses POV. 


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