written by Louise Penny
The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club
The author, Louise Penny, is one of the most decorated mystery writers alive today. She is the only author to have won four Agatha Awards for Best Novel, and she’s not done. Ms. Penny is a Canadian who lives in a small village south of Montreal. This explains why her hero, Armand Gamache, is a French Canadian and why her crimes take place in Canada.
This story is a fusion of three events. The first is an emotionally crushing confrontation with terrorists, which resulted in death and injury to police officers in Garmache’s division. The second is a murder of a hermit in a small town of Three Pines that has already been solved, or at least someone is in prison for the crime. The central part of the novel occurs in the walled city of Quebec, the French-speaking center of the bilingual nation, in a rather unusual setting—a library that maintains the history of the English in the city. The swirling events are much like the swirling snow and winds of Canada’s winter—making it harder to see what is right in front of Garmache. He must try to make sense of finding a body buried in the library’s basement. It is the murdered corpse of a fanatical extremist who has spent his life trying to find the burial site of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain. Why would anyone want to kill him? Why would he be buried in the basement of this library? Garmache has to deal with many personalities and with his own weaknesses and frailties to solve this murder.
Ms. Penny not only ties the three stories together and maintains our attention, but she also tells us about her homeland. She blends history, Champlain’s life and death, with current issues, such as terrorism and the separatist movement in Quebec. Her characters are strong but fragile in many ways, relying on good investigative skills but also on love and loyalty to find solutions. Garmache must relive the horrors and sadness of past events before he can bury his dead.
Don’t let Louise Penny’s approach of swinging back and forth in explaining the three different events throw you. They will make sense as the author develops the story. Although each of her books is a self-contained story, it would probably be wise to read this series in sequence to see the development of the characters. Do not hold back from reading this particular book, however. It will be a worthwhile experience.
Key Ideas from different club members:
Wasn’t impressed, author didn’t distinguish or describe most of the characters; A lot of characters, too many, hard to follow; Starts slow; I like Inspector Armand Gamache; Liked the book; Surprising ending; Flashbacks helped me understand the story; Nice book, continuation of series; Fresh mystery, easy to read.
The Club Members rating of this book:
Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Juanita Sanner, Bill Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart and Linda Troll
Club’s Average Rating: 3.9 of 5 Rating Range: 2 to 5