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A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Gamache Series #12)
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A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Gamache Series #12)

4.6 34
by Louise Penny

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"Deep and grand and altogether extraordinary....Miraculous."
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- The New York


Instant New York Times bestseller:

#1 in Hardcover Fiction
#1 in E-book Fiction
#1 in Combined Print and E-book Fiction

"Deep and grand and altogether extraordinary....Miraculous."
The Washington Post

- The New York Times Book Review

- People

A Great Reckoning succeeds on every level."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

#1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel.

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
Despite the theme of defiled innocence that makes this such a mournful story, the immense charm of the Gamache series survives in the magical setting and feisty residents of Three Pines…Like most of the yarns we've heard about Three Pines, this one honors the town elders and respects the rituals of their quiet existence. But in a broader sense, the novel reaches beyond the living to become the saddest kind of ghost story, a lament for all "the phantom life that might have been."
Publishers Weekly
★ 05/23/2016
The lyrical 12th entry (after 2015’s The Nature of the Beast) in bestseller Penny’s remarkable series, which has won multiple Agatha awards, finds former Chief Insp. Armand Gamache coming out of retirement to clean up the corrupt Süreté Academy du Québec. When an old map is found hidden in the wall of a bistro in Three Pines, the remote village in which Gamache and his wife live, the locals treat it as only an interesting artifact. But Gamache uses the mystery of the map’s origin to engage the interest of four cadets at the academy who are in particular danger of going astray. When someone fatally shoots Serge Leduc, a sadistic, manipulative professor, a copy of the map is found in Leduc’s bedside table, and suspicion falls on the four cadets and Gamache himself. As the story unfolds, a web of connections, past and present, comes to light. This complex novel deals with universal themes of compassion, weakness in the face of temptation, forgiveness, and the danger of falling into despair and cynicism over apparently insurmountable evils. Author tour. Agent: Teresa Chris, Teresa Chris Literary Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“The superbly gifted Louise Penny is on my secret shortlist of must-read authors, and A TRICK OF THE LIGHT proves why. Artist Clara Morrow is about to have a prestigious show of her paintings when her childhood friend is found murdered, and the finger of suspicion points to Clara. Chief Inspector Gamache is called to investigate, and using his trademark powers of deduction and his intuitive knack for the right question at the right time, he exposes the darkness that underlies the bright stars of Montreal's art world, where competition between friends, and even between husband and wife, can turn lethal. Ultimately, of course, it's Louise Penny who steals the show, and A TRICK OF THE LIGHT will not only keep you engrossed from start to finish, it will teach you something new about love, truth, and the human heart.” —Lisa Scottoline
Library Journal
★ 07/01/2016
The latest entry in Penny's popular series (after Nature of the Beast) places Armand Gamache in a new role as commander of the Sûreté Academy du Québec. Prior to the start of the term he is given an old map of the village of Three Pines with some curious symbols. This map becomes the focus of an investigation after a copy is found in the apartment of a murdered professor. Suspicion shifts from student to professor and back again as the story takes unexpected twists. Rooting out the corruption in the academy remains an underlying theme as Gamache mentors students who seem to be on the wrong path. The transport of these students to Three Pines and the involvement of the villagers in the investigation adds depth and interest. While this book may stand alone, fans of the series will enjoy revisiting old friends. Gamache remains admirable yet human, as he seeks to return the Sûreté to the force he first knew. A look back at World War I and an explanation about one mystery surrounding the little village round out the story in a satisfying manner. VERDICT This riveting read, with characters of incredible depth who only add to the strength of the plot, will keep readers guessing until the last page. For series fans and those who enjoy the small-town mysteries of Julia Spencer-Fleming.—Terry Lucas, Shelter Island P.L., NY
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-06-01
Within a police force, some members must be trained in the science, and art, of solving murders. But does this training create people highly capable of committing them?In Penny's 12th Gamache novel, the former chief inspector takes up a new post. He's not back to active investigating—not after finally having the chance to heal in the Québécois village of Three Pines. But he can't pass up the chance to complete his yearslong fight to end corruption within the Sûreté. By taking the job as commander of the Sûreté Academy, he can clean the rot from its wealthiest source—the impressionable minds of cadet trainees. But Gamache makes a questionable decision in choosing to fight fire with fire. He decides to keep the most corrupt staff member, Serge "the Duke" Leduc, the former No. 2 of the Academy. Gamache's choices verge on madness when he announces he will also bring on Michel Brébeuf—the original domino to fall within the Sûreté—as an example of how corruption can ruin you. In his lessons, Gamache invites his cadets to internalize these mottos: "Don't trust everything you think"—words for bettering their minds and investigative skills—as well as "a man's foes shall be they of his own household," from Matthew 10:36—words of warning for what they may face ahead. These lessons become all too relevant when the Duke is found murdered and it's clear the murderer is one of them. And then a copy of an old map is found at the crime scene, the same map Gamache is using as an exercise with four cadets he has brought under his wing and into his home (one lost soul in particular, freshman Amelia Choquet). Gamache is forced to accept that Leduc's grip on the Academy isstronger and more suffocating than he thought possible. Is the household he has vowed to protect more unsafe than ever before? Young, learning minds are precious things, and Penny is here to make us aware of the evil out there, eager for a chance to mold—and poison—them.A chilling story that's also filled with hope—a beloved Penny trademark.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Chief Inspector Gamache Series , #12
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.62(h) x 1.31(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Great Reckoning

By Louise Penny

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Three Pines Creations, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-02213-4


Armand Gamache sat in the little room and closed the dossier with care, squeezing it shut, trapping the words inside.

It was a thin file. Just a few pages. Like all the rest surrounding him on the old wooden floor of his study. And yet, not like all the rest.

He looked at the slender lives lying at his feet. Waiting for his decision on their fate.

He'd been at this for a while now. Reviewing the dossiers. Taking note of the tiny dots on the upper-right corner of the tabs. Red for rejected. Green for accepted.

He had not put those dots there. His predecessor had.

Armand placed the file on the floor and leaned forward in his comfortable armchair, his elbows on his knees. His large hands together, fingers intertwined. He felt like a passenger on a transcontinental flight, staring down at fields below him. Some fertile, some fallow and ripe with potential. And some barren. The topsoil masking the rock beneath.

But which was which?

He'd read, and considered, and tried to drill down past the scant information. He wondered about these lives, and he wondered about the decisions of his predecessor.

For years, decades, as head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, his job had been to dig. To collect evidence. To review facts, and question feelings. To pursue and arrest. To use his judgment, but never to judge.

But now he was judge and jury. The first and final word.

And Armand Gamache realized, without great surprise, that it was a role he was comfortable with. Even liked. The power, yes. He was honest enough to admit that. But mostly he appreciated that he was now in a position not simply to react to the present, but to actually shape the future.

And at his feet was the future.

Gamache leaned back and crossed his legs. It was past midnight, but he wasn't tired. A cup of tea sat on his desk beside a couple of chocolate chip cookies. Uneaten.

The curtains of his study fluttered and he could feel a cold draft coming in through the slightly open window. And he knew if he drew back the curtains and turned on the porch light, he would see the first snow of the season swirling in the light. Falling softly and landing on the roofs of the homes in this tiny village of Three Pines.

It would cover the perennial gardens and leave a thin layer on cars and porches, on the bench in the middle of the village green. It would be landing, softly, on the forests and mountains and the Rivière Bella Bella that flowed past the homes.

It was the beginning of November and this was an early snow even by Québec standards. A tease, a portent. And not enough, yet, for children to play in.

But soon, he knew. It would come soon enough. And the gray November would be transformed into a bright, sparkling wonderland of skiing and skating. Of snowball fights, and snow forts and snowmen, and angels made in snow that had fallen from the heavens.

But for now the children slept and their parents slept. Everyone in the small Québec village slept, while the snow fell and Armand Gamache considered the young lives that lay at his feet.

Through the open door of his study, he saw the living room of the home he shared with his wife, Reine-Marie.

Oriental rugs were scattered about the wide-plank flooring. A large sofa sat on one side of the large stone hearth and two faded armchairs on the other. Side tables were piled with magazines and books. Bookcases lined the walls and lamps filled the room with pleasant light.

It was an inviting room and now Gamache stood up, stretched, and walked out into it, their shepherd Henri following him. He poked the fire and sat in one of the armchairs. His work wasn't done yet. Now he needed to think.

He'd made up his mind about most of the files. Except that one.

When he'd first seen it, he'd read the contents then set it aside, in the rejected pile. Agreeing with the red dot of his predecessor.

But something had niggled at him and he kept returning to that one file. Reading and rereading it. Trying to work out why this one dossier, this one young woman out of all of them, was troubling him.

Gamache had brought the file with him, and now he opened it. Again.

Her face stared at him. Arrogant, challenging. Pale. Her hair jet black, shaved in places, spiked in others. There were unmistakable piercings through her nose and brows and cheek.

She claimed to read ancient Greek and Latin, and yet she'd barely scraped by in high school and had spent the past few years doing, from what he could tell, nothing.

She'd earned the red dot.

So why did he keep going back to it? To her? It wasn't her appearance. He knew enough to look beyond that.

Was it her name? Amelia?

Yes, he thought, that might be it. She shared the name with Gamache's mother, who'd been named for the aviator who'd lost her way and disappeared.


And yet, when he held the file he didn't feel any warmth. In fact, he felt vaguely revolted.

Finally Gamache took off his reading glasses and rubbed his eyes before taking Henri outside for a last walk of the night, in the first snow of the season.

Then it was upstairs to bed for both of them.

* * *

The next morning Reine-Marie invited her husband to breakfast at the bistro. Henri came along and lay quietly under their table as they sipped bowls of café au lait and waited for their maple-cured bacon with scrambled eggs and Brie.

The fireplaces on either end of the long beamed room were lit and cheerful, conversation mingled with the scent of wood smoke, and there was the familiar thudding of patrons knocking snow from their boots as they entered.

The flurries had stopped in the night, leaving just a thin layer barely covering the dead autumn leaves. It seemed a netherworld. Neither fall nor winter. The hills that surrounded the village and seemed to guard it from an often hostile world themselves looked hostile. Or, if not actually hostile, at least inhospitable. It was a forest of skeletons. Their branches, gray and bare, were raised as though begging for a mercy they knew would not be granted.

But on the village green itself stood the three tall pines from which the village took its name. Vibrant, straight and strong. Evergreen. Immortal. Pointing to the sky. Daring it to do its worst. Which it planned to do.

The worst was coming. But so was the best. The snow angels were coming.

"Voilà," said Olivier, placing a basket of warm almandine croissants on their table. "While you wait for breakfast."

A price tag hung from the basket. And from the chandelier above their heads. And the wing chairs they sat on. Everything in Olivier's bistro was for sale. Including, he'd intimated more than once, his partner, Gabri.

"A bag of candy and he's yours," Olivier was heard to offer patrons when Gabri turned up in his frilly apron.

"That is how he got me," Gabri would admit, smoothing the apron he only wore, they all knew, to piss off Olivier. "A bag of allsorts."

When they were alone, Armand slid a file across the table to his wife.

"Could you read this, please?"

"Of course," she said as she put on her glasses. "Is there a problem?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Then why ...?" She gestured toward the folder.

He'd often discussed cases with her, before his early retirement from the Sûreté. He was not yet sixty and this was more of a retreat, really. To this village, to recover from what lay beyond the ridge of mountains.

He watched her over the rim of his strong, fragrant coffee, holding the warm bowl between his hands. They no longer trembled, Reine-Marie noted. Or at least not often. She always looked, in case.

And the deep scar near his temple wasn't quite so deep. Or perhaps familiarity and relief had filled it in.

He limped still, sometimes, when he was tired. But besides that, and the scar, there were no outward signs of what had happened. Though she did not need any signs. It was the sort of thing she would never forget.

Almost losing him.

But instead, they'd found themselves here. In the village that managed to be welcoming even on the dullest day.

Reine-Marie had known, even as they'd bought the home and unpacked, that the time would come when he'd want and need to go back to work. The only question had been, what next? What would Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the head of the most successful homicide department in the country, choose to do?

He'd had plenty of offers. Their study was filled with envelopes marked "Confidential." He'd taken plenty of meetings. From heads of major corporations, to political parties anxious for him to run for office, to police organizations, national and international. Discreet vehicles had pulled up outside their white clapboard home and discreetly dressed men and women had knocked on the door. And sat in their living room, discussing "what next."

Armand had listened politely, often offering them lunch or dinner or a place to stay if it was late. But never tipping his hand.

Reine-Marie herself had found her dream job, after leaving her post at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec as one of the head librarians. She'd volunteered to sort years of donations to the regional historical society.

It was a post her former colleagues no doubt viewed as a significant step down. But Reine-Marie wasn't interested in steps. She'd arrived at where she wanted to be. No more steps. She'd stopped. Reine-Marie had found a home in Three Pines. She'd found a home in Armand. And now she'd found her intellectual home, investigating the rich and disorganized collection of documents and furniture and clothing and oddities left to the region in wills.

For Reine-Marie Gamache, each day felt like Christmas, as she sorted through the boxes and boxes. And boxes.

And then, after much discussion between them, Armand had decided on his next step.

For weeks after, while she pored over piles of letters and old documents, he pored over his files, studying confidential reports, schematics, curricula vitae. Across from each other in their comfortable living room, they'd gone through their separate boxes, while the fire mumbled and the coffee perked and late autumn turned into an early winter.

But while she was opening up the world, he was in many ways doing the opposite. Armand was whittling down, honing, shaving, taking out the dead wood, the unnecessary, the unwanted. The rot. Until what he had in his hands was something very sharp. A spear of his own creation. And he'd need it. There could be no doubt who was in charge, and who held the power. Or that he was willing to use it.

He was almost there, she knew. But there seemed one thin obstacle.

They looked down at it now, sitting innocently on the table among the croissant flakes.

Armand opened his mouth to speak, then closed it and exhaled sharply, in irritation.

"There's something that's bothering me about this file and I don't know what it is."

Reine-Marie picked it up and read. It didn't take long. After a few minutes she closed the cover, laying a hand softly on top as a mother might on the chest of a sick child. Making sure of the heartbeat.

"She's an odd one, I'll give her that." She looked at the red dot in the corner. "You're rejecting her, I see."

Armand lifted his hands in a noncommittal gesture.

"You're considering accepting her?" she asked. "Even if it's true that she reads ancient Greek and Latin, that's not much use in the job. They're dead languages. And she might very well be lying."

"True," he admitted. "But if you're going to lie, why do it about that? Seems an odd sort of fabrication."

"She's not qualified," said Reine-Marie. "Her high school marks are abysmal. I know it's difficult to choose, but surely there are other applicants who deserve the spot more."

Their breakfast came, and Armand placed the file on the pine floor beside Henri.

"I can't tell you how often I've changed that dot," he said with a smile. "Red, green. Green, red."

Reine-Marie took a forkful of the moist scrambled eggs. A long thin string of Brie clung to the plate and she lifted her fork above her head for amusement, to see how long the string could stretch before it broke.

Longer than her arm, it seemed.

Armand, smiling and shaking his head, pulled it apart with his fingers.

"There, madame, I set you free."

"From the bondage of cheese," she said. "Oh, thank you, kind sir. But I'm afraid the attachment goes deeper than that."

He laughed.

"Do you think it's her name?" asked Reine-Marie. Her husband was rarely so indecisive, though she knew he also took his decisions seriously. They would affect people for the rest of their lives.

"Amelia?" he asked. And frowned. "I wondered the same thing. But it seems a huge overreaction on my part, don't you think? My mother's been gone for almost fifty years. I've met other Amelias —"

"Not many."

"Non, c'est vrai. But some. And while the name will always remind me of my mother, the fact is I didn't think of her as Amelia. She was Maman."

He was right, of course. And he didn't seem at all embarrassed to be a grown man talking about "mommy." She knew he was simply referring to the last time he saw his mother and father. When he was nine. When they weren't Amelia and Honoré but Mommy and Daddy. Going out for dinner with friends. Expected back to kiss him good night.

"It could be her name," said Armand.

"But you doubt it. You think it's something else."

"Oh God," said Olivier, coming over to check on them and looking out the window. "I don't think I'm ready."

"Neither are we," admitted Reine-Marie, following his gaze to the snowy village green, now white. "You think you are, but it always comes as an unpleasant surprise."

"And arrives earlier and earlier," said Armand.

"Exactly. And seems more and more bitter," said Olivier.

"Still, there's beauty," said Armand, and received a stern look from Olivier.

"Beauty? You're kidding, right?" he said.

"No, it's there. Of course, it can stick around far too long," said Armand.

"You're telling me," said Olivier.

"It gets old," said Reine-Marie.

"Gets old?" asked Olivier.

"But having the right tires helps," she said.

Olivier put the empty croissant basket back down on the table. "What're you talking about?"

"Winter, of course," said Reine-Marie. "The first snow."

"What're you talking about?" asked Armand.

"Ruth," said Olivier, pointing out the window at the elderly woman with a cane, and a duck, approaching the bistro. Old, cold and bitter.

She stepped inside and scanned the room.

"Yes," said Olivier. "The right tires would solve that problem."

"Fag," muttered Ruth as she limped by them.

"Hag," muttered Olivier as they watched the elderly poet take her usual seat by the fireplace. She opened the pine blanket box used as a coffee table and took out a handful of papers.

"She's helping me sort through the stuff we found in the walls when we renovated," said Olivier. "You remember?"

Armand nodded. Olivier and his partner, Gabri, had turned an abandoned hardware store into the bistro many years ago, and in updating the electricity and plumbing, they'd opened the walls and found all sorts of things. Mummified squirrels, clothing. But mostly they'd found papers. Newspapers, magazines, advertisements, catalogues used as insulation as though words could keep winter at bay.

Enough heated words had been hurled at the Québec winter, but all had failed to stop the snow.

In the chaos of the renovations, the papers had simply been dumped in the pine blanket box and forgotten. The box had sat in front of the hearth for years, unopened. Countless cafés au lait, and glasses of wine, and plates of regional cheese and paté and baguette, and feet, had rested on top of it, until the papers had been rediscovered a few months earlier.

"I doubt there's anything valuable," said Olivier, returning to the Gamaches' table after taking Ruth her breakfast of Irish coffee and bacon.

"How is that woman still alive?" asked Reine-Marie.

"Bile," said Olivier. "She's pure bile. It never dies." He looked at Reine-Marie. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to help her?"

"Well, who wouldn't want to work with pure bile?" she said.

"Once she gets a few drinks in her, she becomes simply nasty, as you know," said Olivier. "Please. Please. It's taken Ruth two months to get the pile down an inch. The problem is, she doesn't just scan, she reads everything. Yesterday she spent the whole day on one National Geographic from 1920."


Excerpted from A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny. Copyright © 2016 Three Pines Creations, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

LOUISE PENNY is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of more than ten Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (five times) and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.

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A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Gamache Series #12) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this all the way through in a weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it . I've read this entire series. In fact, I've read most of the books twice. Louise Penny writes beautifully; her characters and settings are extraordinary. I can hardly wait to read the next Inspector Gamache episode !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of Louise Penny's best! Every character and scene held my attention and drew me into the plot. The subplot with the map, and how the map is woven into the main plot, is so beautifully crafted. The power of love and kindness and community in good and hard times shines through. Highly revommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing novel written by a very talented author. It started as a recommendation from a friend to read Still Life and I've stuck with it since.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put it down. Gamache and the residents of Three Pines are real and complex. Thank you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish these people were my friends. I hope I have the good fortune to visit with them again.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Mystery and depth
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was her best yet! I hated to put it down!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Louise Penny's Three Pines series have always been worth reading but not every one was a complete success. This one certainly is without disappointment. Her characters shine, Penny keeps us guessing, the resolution and conclusion satisfy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Louise Penny is an artist and one of my favorite writers. Her books keep getting better and better. I love the village of Three Pines and the characters!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another wonderful book from Louise Penny
Anonymous 3 months ago
Anonymous 7 months ago
Just a wonderful book.
Anonymous 11 months ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was anxious to read this latest novel and I am glad that I did. It is like a get together with old friends. I love Louise Penny's writing and the characters and setting are so real to me. I wish the book had gone on forever.
Noblescribe More than 1 year ago
I loved this novel and I even cried at the end. Louise creates characters that are so believable and the village of Three Pines is a place I would love to visit. The quaint settings, wonderful food makes me wish I could step inside one of her novels.
Dinia More than 1 year ago
Louise Penny just gets better. As Armand Gamache prepares for the next turn his life has taken, he leaves Three Pines to command the police academy. After nearly losing his life as the former Chief of Homicide responsible for rooting out the corruption in his former agency, he is now at the academy to ensure the new trainees do not reinfect the Surete again. The story is split between the Academy and Three Pines with murder in one and a mysterious map in another. Once again we are treated to an amazing cast of well defined characters, plenty of mysteries, humanity both good and bad and a real depth of wisdom for the soul. Louise Penny writes with words that flow like poetry that I descibe to friends as "gentle mysteries". The stories are complex and intuitive yet will leave you with a sense of comfort at the end. You must read these novels in order beginning with STILL LIFE so as to become acquainted with the characters and their stories and the town that is Three Pines.
Avid_readerRF More than 1 year ago
My favorite mystery author and favorite read. I love the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache and all the other characters in this series. I get drawn into the book and when the book(s) end, I feel lost for a couple days. As though my friends have gone away for a years vacation.
Avid_readerRF More than 1 year ago
My favorite mystery author and favorite read. I love the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache and all the other characters in this series. I get drawn into the book and when the book(s) end, I feel lost for a couple days. As though my friends have gone away for a years vacation.
DianaH-Maine More than 1 year ago
Exquisite. A beautiful tapestry of words - thoughtful, provocative, ethical, elegant, meditative - woven together with love into a perfect masterpiece. The acknowledgements made me cry. A wonderful, precious writer is Louise Penny. A great book, not to be missed, is A GREAT RECKONING. Ms. Penny’s writing always lifts me up - my own moment of zen.
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