Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is back, having decided what role to undertake with the Quebec Surete. He’s accepted the position of commandment at the Surete Academy, and for a simple reason: The massive corruption he exposed in the Surete itself is not done until what is happening at the academy is also changed. And what is happening is a crime in and of itself – the shaping of police officers into brutal killers who believe society is their enemy.
Inexplicably to almost everyone but himself, he retains Serge Leduc as a professor, the man who’s taken kickbacks and bribes and the chief culprit in what has happened at the academy. What Gamache sees is that Leduc isn’t intelligent enough to pull off everything that’s been happening; there’s someone else, hidden in the shadows. Gamache also hires a disgraced officer, Michel Brebeuf, who is also Gamache’s former best friend from childhood.
Leduc is found dead, at first believed to be a suicide, but it’s soon determined he’s a victim of murder. Gamache himself may be a suspect. What the inspector does is to spirit four police cadets away from the academy to Three Pines, the village where he and his wife Reine-Marie now live. The lives of the cadets are in danger; and one of them may be a killer.
A Great Reckoning by mystery writer Louise Penny may be her best Gamache story yet. (I think I’ve said that about 10 times now.) Penny weaves an intriguing mystery through the lives of the Surete officials and the villagers of Three Pines.
And we finally learn why Three Pines cannot be found on any map, and who it was who actually planted the pines that give the village its name. A map found in a wall in the village plays a significant role in the story; a copy of it will be found in the nightstand of the murdered man.
Gamache must deal with an investigation that has his name of the list of suspects; an increasingly irritated officer from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, sent to ensure a proper investigation; four cadets who resent their commandant; and doubts raised by his own friends.
Penny spends as much time drawing her minor characters as she does the major ones. Foul-mouthed poet Ruth Zardo, who’s been part of the series since the first book, is back with her equally foul-mouthed duck Rosa. So are artist Clara Morrow, bookstore owner Myrna, bistro owners Olivier and Gabriel, and Gamache’s right-hand man and now son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir.
A Great Reckoning is one terrific story.
Top photograph: The emblem of the Quebec Surete.