An Armand Gamache novel not at least partly set in Three Pines? What will I do with myself? I have so much enjoyed knowing a whole town involved in a murder mystery, as well as the detective and his team.
the initial trepidation this set off in my head, it was quickly allayed
by the story that Louise Penny laid before me. This was really damned
good. Even if it had a heartbreaking ending. Penny's understanding and
portrayal of human nature in all its warts and beauties shines through
There are two things going on in this novel: the
main mystery, and the longer through-line that has been there since the
very first Penny book. The pieces have started to fall into place
the last couple of novels, and it's both upsetting and exciting to see
where she will go with it. What will happen to our beloved Gamache?
the main mystery. It takes place, as I said, not in Three Pines, but in
an extraordinarily remote monastery in northern Quebec. This monastery
had lately become a sensation with the release of an album of Gregorian
chants. The resulting fame has caused the monastery to go even further
inwards, behind the walls they built to hide themselves from the world
and the Inquisition. But the money the recording has brought in has
split the community, a split made brutally clear when one man is killed.
This brings Gamache and his right hand, Beauvoir, to the doors of the
monastery, to carry out an all-too-earthy investigation.
And as a
main mystery, this was a good one. Penny has a sure hand in creating
all her characters, and the monks sprang to life off the pages. And they
weren't treated with condescension, nor with pity. Each had their own
reasons for joining such a reclusive order. This is not a novel where
religious characters are simply called hypocritical and dismissed. But
neither is it one that then assumes that religious belief is
incompatible with pettiness, jealousy, and the kind of pain that eats
away at someone until they lash out.
As for the larger storyline
about Gamache and his place within the Surete de Quebec, and his
relationships with his subordinates, particularly Beauvoir, we have seen
what was coming for such a long time. Those cracks that fester,
those moments where trust is withheld because of personal pain, the type
of hurts that lead to the murders Gamache has investigated, they have
been dropped in, moment by moment, for books. And reach a breaking point
here. More than one character we know and love comes close to their
personal moment when they could commit murder.
I don't want to
say anything more, for fear of spoiling this one. But it's very sad, and
upsetting, and yet, we know who Gamache is, and perhaps have some idea
of what he'll do next. I look forward to finding out. And I hope that
certain things are not irrevocable, but they may well be.