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Saturday, 18 November 2017

‘A Great Reckoning’ by Louise Penny

‘A Great Reckoning’ by Louise Penny
Published by Little Brown Book Group,
16 November 2017.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5269-0 (PB)

Former Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has left the Sûreté and taken a long respite after he was seriously injured. Settled, with his wife, Reine-Marie, in the small, isolated village of Three Pines, Gamache has found peace and healing for his wounds, physical, mental and emotional. Now he has recovered and has received offers of many high-ranking positions that will allow him to move back into the world of power that he once inhabited, but he has chosen to take on the job of commander of the Sûreté Academy. Gamache has a good reason for this decision. He has already rooted out the corruption that was eating away at the Sûreté but he knows the only way to truly cleanse the police force is to eradicate corruption at its roots. For years the cadets at the Academy have been trained and bullied by vicious, arrogant instructors, who have created generations of police officers as cruel and corrupt as they are themselves. Gamache is aware that only by getting the cadets when they are young can these evil instructors twist their minds until they no longer know right from wrong. With his son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir as his second-in-command, he is determined to stop this evil.

Gamache makes several bold decisions as he selects his teaching staff and the new yearly intake of cadets. He mixes trusted instructors with others that he wishes to keep near him until he can get sufficient evidence to have them prosecuted. He dithers for some time before admitting as a cadet Amelia Choquet, a young woman who has been leading an out-of-control life and has slipped into prostitution, but Gamache decides to give her a chance to turn her life around.

Back at Three Pines, Reine-Marie and the other residents are trying to solve the mystery of an intriguing, strangely-illustrated map which was found amongst magazines, newspapers and other old paperwork that had been used as insulation in the walls of an old building. Three Pines does not appear on any of the official maps of the district, but it is central to this map. As an exercise in detection, Gamache gives copies of the map to four students, one of whom is Amelia, and sets them the task of revealing its mysterious origin and its concealed message.

When a professor at the Academy is murdered, the crime is clearly tied to a member of the Academy and it seems that Gamache’s bold gamble to cleanse the Academy of corruption and cruelty has failed. A copy of the map of Three Pines is discovered in the murdered professor’s bedside drawer and the corrupt Academy and the peaceful village where Gamache found sanctuary are linked together. Worst of all, Gamache finds himself under suspicion of committing the murder and is in danger of being arrested.

A Great Reckoning is the 12th in the series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache. It is a compelling book, with a strong, lovable central protagonist. Gamache is a man of power, integrity, generosity and kindness. His wife, Reine-Marie, matches him with her strength, gentleness and her instinct to champion the vulnerable. This is demonstrated when Reine-Marie is given the choice of a litter of abandoned puppies and she picks not the adorable, fluffy puppy but the runt of the litter, who many people claim is not a puppy at all. When he sees the puppy, Gamache admits to himself that he would have done exactly the same thing.

The regular characters in the series – the residents of Three Pines and Gamache’s family – are all delightful, eccentric and warm, and must make most readers wish that they were part of such a community. The plot is excellent, intricate and flawlessly interwoven, with a clever discovery at the end. The writing style is elegant without ever losing the delightful touches of humour or slowing down the plot, and the images are exquisite. There are several subtle underlying themes that weave through the book but, for me, the most moving were those of kindness and of finding one’s way home.

Louise Penny is a superb writer. When I first received this book and saw it was 500 pages long, I wondered how I would get through it in time to review it for the December ezine. After the first few pages I was wondering what I could jettison from my schedule because I just had to go on reading. In the end I read it in three days. It is definitely a page-turner. Thoroughly recommended.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Louise Penny was born in Toronto in 1958 and became a journalist and radio host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, specializing in hard news and current affairs. Her first job was in Toronto and then moved to Thunder Bay at the far tip of Lake Superior, in Ontario. Louise had always dreamed of writing and says, ‘Michael's support allowed me to quit work to write’.  Louise and Michael were married for 20 years. He died September 2016.
The Chief Inspector Gamache books have found a world-wide audience, won awards and ended up on bestseller lists including the New York Times’. Louise says Gamache was inspired by her husband, a kindly, thoughtful, generous man of courage and integrity. She lives outside a small village south of Montreal, quite close to the American border

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats  the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

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