For Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the Québec Homicide Department has become an uncomfortable place. With his most talented agents now gone and most of those still remaining now hostile, he welcomes an opportunity to get back to his old hunting grounds of Three Pines. Waiting for him there is a case involving a woman whose last name alone would galvanize the world's attention, but he discovers that the problems at hope cannot be ignored. As Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series nears its end, it seems to gather, rather than lose resonance. Editor's recommendation.
This follow-up to the Agatha Award-winning The Beautiful Mystery finds Chief Inspector Gamache and the Homicide Division that he has created at his beloved Sûreté du Québec at their lowest ebb. His formerly top-notch division is tatters, his crack agents have scattered to other units, and his cherished lieutenant, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, has been set on a path of addiction and destruction by Gamache's greatest enemy, the head of the Sûreté. It appears that Gamache is being herded toward retirement by the forces arrayed against him. In the middle of this corrupt bureaucratic war, there is one more murder involving Gamache's friends in the village of Three Pines. And as Gamache works tirelessly to solve the crime, he uses the cover of routine police work to show his friends, his remaining allies, and, most of all, his loyal readers that he might appear down, but he is never out. VERDICT Penny's mysteries are really character studies. There is police procedure being followed, but the forensics take second place to Gamache's absolutely fascinating probe into the characters of every single person involved in the investigation: the police, the witnesses, and especially the suspects. He cares passionately about each person and makes the reader care. Highly recommended for mystery lovers, readers who enjoy character-driven mysteries, and those who like seeing good triumph and evil get its just desserts. [300,000-copy first printing.]—Marlene Harris, Seattle P.L.
Complex characterizations and sophisticated plotting distinguish Agatha-winner Penny’s masterful ninth novel (after 2012’s The Beautiful Mystery). The devastating conclusion to the previous book saw Jean-Guy Beauvoir abandon his mentor, Chief Insp. Armand Gamache of the Quebec Sûreté, and return to substance abuse. Things have never looked bleaker for the unassuming and empathic Gamache. A corrupt superior has gutted his homicide department, and the agents he now supervises treat their cases with blatant indifference. Amid all this personal and professional turmoil, Gamache lands a strange murder case. There’s no obvious motive for why somebody killed elderly Constance Ouellet—the only living member of a set of quintuplets who were national celebrities in their youth—by striking her in the head with a lamp. Fair-play clues lead to a surprising solution to the murder, while Gamache’s battle to save his career unfolds with subtlety and intelligence. Once again, Penny impressively balances personal courage and faith with heartbreaking choices and monstrous evil. First printing of 300,000; author tour. Agent: Patty Moosbrugger, Teresa Chris Literary Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“A magnificent writer who deftly and sympathetically explores the dark desires, pains and joys of the human heart in each immaculately-crafted tale she writes.” Cleveland Plain Dealer on How the Light Gets In
“Masterful...Once again, Penny impressively balances personal courage and faith with heartbreaking choices and monstrous evil.” Publishers Weekly (starred) on How the Light Gets In
“Penny has always used setting to support theme brilliantly, but here she outdoes herself, contrasting light and dark, innocence and experience, goodness and evil both in the emotional lives of her characters and in the way those characters leave their footprints on the landscape. Another bravura performance from an author who has reinvented the village mystery as profoundly as Dashiell Hammett transformed the detective novel.” Booklist (starred) on How the Light Gets In
“Highly recommended for mystery lovers, readers who enjoy character-driven mysteries, and those who like seeing good triumph and evil get its just desserts.” Library Journal (starred) on How the Light Gets In
“Three Pines, with its quirky tenants, and luminous insights into trust and friendship...will hook readers and keep them hooked.” Kirkus Reviews (starred) on How the Light Gets In
“Penny writes with grace and intelligence about complex people struggling with complex emotions. But her great gift is her uncanny ability to describe what might seem indescribable – the play of light, the sound of celestial music, a quiet sense of peace.” New York Times Book Review
“Gorgeous writing...fresh and fully realized.” The Washington Post
“Penny proves again that she is one of our finest writers.” People
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is pushed toward retirement. It's a great relief for Inspector Gamache to get out of the office and head for Three Pines to help therapist-turned-bookseller Myrna find out why her friend Constance Pineault didn't turn up for Christmas. Except for Isabelle Lacoste, Gamache's staff has been gutted by Chief Superintendent Francoeur. Gamache's decisions have been mostly ignored and bets placed on how soon he'll admit redundancy and retire. Even worse, a recent tragedy (The Beautiful Mystery, 2012, etc.) has led his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, to transfer out of Gamache's department, fall sway to prescription drugs and hold his former boss in contempt. En route to Three Pines, Gamache happens upon a fatality at the Champlain Bridge and agrees to handle the details. But this case takes a back seat to the disappearance of Constance when she turns up dead in her home. Myrna confides Constance's secret: As the last surviving Ouellet quintuplet, she'd spent her adult years craving privacy after the national publicity surrounding the birth of the five sisters had turned them into daily newspaper fodder. Why would anyone want to murder this reclusive woman of 79? The answer is developed through clues worthy of Agatha Christie that Gamache interprets while dealing with the dismemberment of his homicide department by Francoeur, who's been plotting a major insult to Canadian government for 30 years. Matters come to a head when Gamache and the one Sûreté chief still loyal to him and her husband, a computer whiz, are tracked to Three Pines, where Beauvoir awaits, gun in hand. Of the three intertwined plots, the Francoeur scheme is the deadliest, and the Ouellet saga will remind readers of the real-life Dionne family debacle of the 1940s. But it's Three Pines, with its quirky tenants, resident duck and luminous insights into trust and friendship, that will hook readers and keep them hooked.
Read an Excerpt
Audrey Villeneuve knew what she imagined could not possibly be happening. She was a grown woman and could tell the difference between real and imagined. But each morning as she drove through the Ville-Marie Tunnel from her home in east-end Montréal to her office, she could see it. Hear it. Feel it happening.
The first sign would be a blast of red as drivers hit their brakes. The truck ahead would veer, skidding, slamming sideways. An unholy shriek would bounce off the hard walls and race toward her, all-consuming. Horns, alarms, brakes, people screaming.
And then Audrey would see huge blocks of concrete peeling from the ceiling, dragging with them a tangle of metal veins and sinews. The tunnel spilling its guts. That held the structure up. That held the city of Montréal up.
And then, and then … the oval of daylight, the end of the tunnel, would close. Like an eye.
And then, darkness.
And the long, long wait. To be crushed.
Every morning and each evening, as Audrey Villeneuve drove through the engineering marvel that linked one end of the city with another, it collapsed.
“It’ll be all right.” She laughed to herself. At herself. “It’ll be all right.”
She cranked the music louder and sang loudly to herself.
But still her hands on the steering wheel tingled, then grew cold and numb, and her heart pounded. A wave of slush whacked her windshield. The wipers swept it away, leaving a half moon of streaky visibility.
Traffic slowed. Then stopped.
Audrey’s eyes widened. This had never happened before. Moving through the tunnel was bad enough. Stopped in it was inconceivable. Her brain froze.
“It’ll be all right.” But she couldn’t hear her voice, so thin was her breath and so great the howl in her head.
She locked the door with her elbow. Not to keep anyone out, but to keep herself in. A feeble attempt to stop herself from flinging open the door and running, running, screaming out of the tunnel. She gripped the wheel. Tight. Tight. Tighter.
Her eyes darted to the slush-spattered wall, the ceiling, the far wall.
Dear God, cracks.
And the half-hearted attempts to plaster over them.
Not to repair them, but hide them.
That doesn’t mean the tunnel will collapse, she assured herself.
But the cracks widened and consumed her reason. All the monsters of her imagination became real and were squeezing out, reaching out, from between those faults.
She turned the music off so she could concentrate, hyper-vigilant. The car ahead inched forward. Then stopped.
“Go, go, go,” she pleaded.
But Audrey Villeneuve was trapped and terrified. With nowhere to go. The tunnel was bad, but what waited for her in the gray December sunlight was worse.
For days, weeks, months—even years, if she was being honest—she’d known. Monsters existed. They lived in cracks in tunnels, and in dark alleys, and in neat row houses. They had names like Frankenstein and Dracula, and Martha and David and Pierre. And you almost always found them where you least expected.
She glanced into the rearview mirror and met two frightened brown eyes. But in the reflection she also saw her salvation. Her silver bullet. Her wooden stake.
It was a pretty party dress.
She’d spent hours sewing it. Time she could have, should have, spent wrapping Christmas gifts for her husband and daughters. Time she could have, should have, spent baking shortbread stars and angels and jolly snowmen, with candy buttons and gumdrop eyes.
Instead, each night when she got home Audrey Villeneuve went straight to the basement, to her sewing machine. Hunched over the emerald green fabric, she’d stitched into that party dress all her hopes.
She would put it on that night, walk into the Christmas party, scan the room and feel surprised eyes on her. In her clingy green dress, frumpy Audrey Villeneuve would be the center of attention. But it wasn’t made to get everyone’s attention. Just one man’s. And when she had that, she could relax.
She’d hand over her burden, and get on with life. The faults would be repaired. The fissures closed. The monsters returned to where they belonged.
The exit to the Champlain Bridge was in sight. It wasn’t what she normally took, but this was far from a normal day.
Audrey put on her signal and saw the man in the next car give her a sour look. Where did she think she was going? They were all trapped. But Audrey Villeneuve was more trapped. The man gave her the finger, but she took no offense. In Québec it was as casual as a friendly wave. If the Québécois ever designed a car, the hood ornament would be a middle finger. Normally she’d give him a “friendly wave” back, but she had other things on her mind.
She edged into the far right lane, toward the exit to the bridge. The wall of the tunnel was just feet away. She could have stuck her fist into one of the holes.
“It’ll be all right.”
Audrey Villeneuve knew it would be many things, but all right probably wasn’t one of them.
Copyright © 2013 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.