Inspector Armand Gamache and His assistant Jean-Guy Beauvoir are back in the village of Three Pines in Quebec, investigating what appears to be a suicide in the nearby woods. A guest from the local spa and inn has been found hanging from a tree. It looks like suicide; a note will even be found in the dead man’s room.
But Gamache isn’t satisfied. There’s no explanation for how the man climbed the tree to see the rope in place. And the dead man’s hands are clean, with no marks from the tree or sap.
And then there’s the question of identity. The dead man is registered at the inn as Arthur Ellis. But that’s not who he is. Arthur Ellis is the name of the 19th- and early 20th-century executioner for the government of Canada in death penalty cases.
The Hangman by Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny is a short novel or novella, published in 2010 and something of a break in her string of Armand Gamache mystery novels. The differences are more than length, and may be a function of the short form used for this story.
The novella keeps the setting but employes fewer f the characters from Three Pines (and only Gamache, Beauvoir, and the coroner from the police side). The focus is the mystery – we don’t se any of the personal issues and history involving any of the characters except as it relates directly to the solving of the mystery. In that sense, this is “Penny Lite” instead of the full story we’re used to with her novels.
Gamache and Beauvoir diligently interview and investigate, and slowly the shape of the crime becomes apparent, with a solution buried in the past.
The Hangman is a quick, entertaining mystery but I prefer the fuller and more complicated novels.
Photograph by Kai Stachowiak via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.