Skip to main content

Glass Houses

Review

Glass Houses

After Chief Inspector Armand Gamache swept corruption from the Sûreté du Québec in the action-packed A GREAT RECKONING, he had half-hoped to retire. When appointed by the Premier to the position of Chief Superintendent, he promoted Jean-Guy Beauvoir, his son-law, to be second in command, entrusting the restoration of the shattered police department to law and order.

Gamache now commutes to Montreal from the idyllic village of Three Pines, where he and his wife, Reine-Marie, have permanently moved. After a long and hazardous career in the city, life in the tiny wooded village on the Canadian border between the American state of Vermont seems soothing. Joining their lifelong friends, bistro owners Gabri and Olivier, bookstore proprietress Myrna, the artist Clara, and the irascible, senile poet Ruth and her pet duck Rosa, provides the couple with serenity that the bustling city cannot give them.

"If it is conceivable for Penny to top herself, she has done so in this soul-searching, psychologically insightful journey into each of her memorable characters."

Many months after settling in and as winter approaches, a disturbing figure suddenly appears. Dressed in a sinister black cloak, it lurks next to the century-old pines for which the village is named. It faces the windows of the B&B for three days and nights. When Gamache approaches it and tries to ask questions, it remains silent. Loitering is not illegal, and it seems harmless --- unsettling, perhaps, but not threatening. Despite their uneasiness, he urges the villagers to go about their lives and try to ignore it. He is personally disturbed by its presence, but the people follow his advice and simply stare back, puzzled, referring to it simply as “it” or “he.”

A well-read guest at the B&B ponders that it may be the Cobrador del Frac, a Spanish mythical figure symbolizing conscience or blame; an accusatory figure, silently commanding debtors to pay for a misdeed or an obligation. This stirs imaginations to wonder if someone in the village has committed an evil act. People begin to examine their own consciences, of past sins minor or perhaps major, possibly secretly held. Some begin to suspect others.

It eventually just disappears, much to everyone’s relief. Then a dead body is found in the church basement, wrapped in the cloak. Is it the Cobrador? Or is it someone else, perhaps one of the guests staying at the B&B?

Now, six months later, Gamache is on the witness stand in Montreal testifying against the accused who has confessed to the crime. Oddly, he and the Chief Crown prosecutor appear to be colluding to commit perjury, a crime that for men of their stature would most certainly ruin their careers, and quite possibly send them to jail. But a much larger wrongdoing is at stake, as there is an epidemic of opioid smuggling. Gamache has solid evidence that massive amounts of fentanyl and heroin are passing through the porous border between Canada and the United States near Three Pines. Is the figure in black, the Cobrador, involved?

Louise Penny steers the complex plot between the approaching November winter and the stifling hot courtroom of mid-July all the way to a white-knuckle ending. Gamache, Jean-Guy and Isabelle Lacoste have survived many life-and-death situations in this six-time Agatha Award-winning series. If it is conceivable for Penny to top herself, she has done so in this soul-searching, psychologically insightful journey into each of her memorable characters.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on September 7, 2017

Glass Houses
by Louise Penny

  • Publication Date: August 29, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250066190
  • ISBN-13: 9781250066190