Skip to main content

A Great Reckoning


A Great Reckoning

Armand Gamache has stepped down as the Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, a position that brought with it power. With that great power came danger, and he has the scars, both emotional and physical, to show for it. Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, have now permanently moved from Quebec to the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, a sanctuary of friendship and solace during the tumultuous events of past novels. It is not to lick his wounds that has them moving to within an hour of Quebec. It is in the quiet of Three Pines that Gamache is now assessing the new police officer recruits, only one of the many duties of his new position as the Commander of the Sûreté Academy.

Increased violence in Quebec has come not only on the streets but also from within the ranks of the local police force. It has become clear that under the academy’s current leadership, increasingly aggressive police officers are being graduated, inclined to shoot first and ask questions later. Gamache is assessing the existing operation and its professors in order to develop a new direction. A few heads have already rolled in the process. Improbably, he has retained one professor who he suspects is at the root of the problem, and to many raised eyebrows has rehired a former professor and partner with a checkered past.

"My hope is that Three Pines will forever be the Camelot of Louise Penny’s vivid imagination."

An oddly drawn map that is over 100 years old is brought to Gamache’s attention by a group of local volunteers sorting through old newspapers found stuffed in the walls of the local bistro during renovation. It appears to be the area where Three Pines is situated, but the small hamlet does not appear. Gamache uses the map as a device for teaching investigative procedures to a handful of carefully chosen students. He selects four to ferret out the information the ancient map may reveal. His training skills with troubled young people is put to the test as he admits one young woman with Goth piercings, tattoos and spiked hair, whose background doesn’t measure up to admittance standards. This raises several eyebrows, but Gamache senses a hidden strength in Amelia Choquet. What the students learn as they pursue the evidence the map unveils will lead to a shocking path of self-discovery that may also lead to murder.  

We feel as if we are greeting old friends for a café au lait and brioche at the local bistro and B&B run by Gabriel and Olivier. This is where Ruth Zardo, the octogenarian poet, not so silently nips her gin when she’s not parked on the bench with her pet duck under the signatory three tall pines for which the village is named. Myrna, the retired psychologist who runs the local bookstore, and Clara, the struggling artist, are friends of Gamache’s ever patient and brilliant wife. These French Canadians and others are residents of the ethereal Three Pines, author Louise Penny’s creation of a haven that appears on no map.

Penny has become one of the most evocative and compelling writers of the past decade. With 12 Inspector Gamache mysteries in 11 years, she has created a captivating supporting cast of characters whose personalities flesh out the detective narrative. If you are a first-time reader of any one of these transcendent novels, you will appreciate them all the more if you go back to where it all began with STILL LIFE.

A wee confession here: I, too, live in a small community once founded by writers, artists, poets, military retirees and other assorted individualists. It, too, appears on no map, which hasn’t prevented several thousand new residents who prefer its exurban lifestyle from building McMansions. My hope is that Three Pines will forever be the Camelot of Louise Penny’s vivid imagination.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on August 25, 2016

A Great Reckoning
by Louise Penny

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250022118
  • ISBN-13: 9781250022110