Louise Penny’s latest mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the ninth installment in her award-winning series. Gamache shares equal billing with the tiny Canadian village of Twin Pines with its eccentric cast of characters. These novels are a bit like Martha Grimes’s Richard Jury mysteries --- only Canadian and with goosebumps.
Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec has his back to the wall. The most successful homicide department in Canada, which he has led for years, is being systematically gutted. Nearly all of his most able detectives have been transferred out of his division under orders of Gamache’s nemesis, Chief Superintendent Francoeur. Their replacements over the past six months are either insubordinate, ineffectual or rank beginners. Morale has never been lower.
"...an intricately plotted exploration of a missing celebrity, calculated murder and an act of terrorism. With a great man’s reputation at stake, the chilling climax in the deep snows of Canada will keep you on the edge of your seat."
Gamache has long suspected corruption at the core of the Chief Superintendent’s office, perhaps as deep as Montreal’s city administration. His suspicions grew when a deadly warehouse fire took the lives of several top Montreal policemen and seriously wounded Gamache’s protégée, Jean Guy-Beauvoir. Superintendent Francouer systematically focuses blame for that fire on Gamache and is coming perilously close to forcing Gamache into retirement. Beauvoir, his former second in command, is now tied to a desk job in Francouer’s office because of his injuries and has been persuaded that Gamache abandoned him to die in the fire. Even former key supporters are turning their back on him, urging him to retire. Was he getting too close to the truth?
When an apparent suicide of a city employee and the mysterious disappearance of a visitor in Gamache’s favorite hideaway village of Twin Pines occur at the same time, a complex scenario unfolds. Both deaths are outside of Gamache’s jurisdiction, but since it is a week before Christmas and he has vacation time coming before he joins his wife in Paris for Christmas, he travels to Twin Pines at a friend’s request to help locate her missing friend.
What follows is an intricately plotted exploration of a missing celebrity, calculated murder and an act of terrorism. With a great man’s reputation at stake, the chilling climax in the deep snows of Canada will keep you on the edge of your seat.
To quote Ms. Penny: “My books are about terror. That brooding terror curled deep down inside us. But more than that, more than murder, more than all the rancid emotions and action, my books are about goodness. And kindness. About choices. About friendship and belonging. And love. Enduring love. If you take only one thing away from any of my books I’d like it to be this: Goodness exists.”
I first came across Louise Penny two years ago with A TRICK OF THE LIGHT and was so taken with her lyrical writing and taut plotting that I eagerly searched out earlier novels in the series. For an avid mystery buff with shelves full of complete collections of mystery and thriller writers of every persuasion, finding a new as-yet-unread writer with Ms. Penny’s skills is like discovering a sparkling object in the sand and seeing it is attached to a string of gems.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on September 20, 2013