By Louise Penny
“…while forgetting the past might condemn people to repeat it, remembering it too vividly condemned them to never leave.”
Gamache nodded. “Somehow the mapmakers missed Three Pines.” “Then how do people find it?” “I don’t know. Perhaps it suddenly appears.”
There is a lot going on in this 6th entry in the Inspector Gamache series. We learn that in between this one, Bury your Dead, and The Brutal Telling, the team has been involved in a devastating terrorist attack which has left Gamache and his #2, Beauvoir, wounded in body, mind and spirit. Firstly, this book deals with the beginning of their recovery from the effects. The second part is that Gamache has been nagged by Gabri into some niggling doubts about the guilt of Olivier in the death of the Hermit of book 5. So he sends Jean Guy Beauvoir to Three Pines to secretly re-investigate the murder. The 3rd concern in this book is the murder of Augustin Renaud who is obsessed with finding the famously lost grave of the Québécois and Canadian 16th century hero, Samuel de Champlain. This was an excellent book, which so far I have found all of Louise Penny’s to be. But I didn’t love it.
It was just so sad. A promising character introduced in the previous book is dead. The attack that killed him and Gamache’s mission to save eastern Canada and the United States from devastation is re-lived through the book. We know that he was successful in one and unsuccessful in saving Morin, our guy, from the very beginning. And we learn to love and be very invested in Morin and his hopes and dreams as we read. Penny pulls out all of the stops to make sure we do. But we know he dies in the end. So no. Not my cup of tea. In fact, looking back, I think it was a little manipulative.
It dragged some in the middle. The Champlain parts and the exploration of the history and culture of Quebec were interesting and educational. But let’s face it, it was not exactly white knuckle or thought provoking reading.
Both the murder and the murderer of the fanatical archaeologist were not believable. The motive was very very weak. There was just very little reason for it. Unless I missed it, the perpetrator didn’t seem to have mindset or cause to do such a thing. I just didn’t believe it at all. It did not fall with Gamache’s oft repeated lessons on the deep seated reasons why people are driven to murder.
On the other hand, Beauvoir’s investigation into the murder of the Hermit was intriguing and involving. Good for him for solving this most difficult of conundrums on his own. The solution was shocking but made perfect sense. The clues were there, especially with the benefit of hindsight. I enjoyed how it all fit together with the previous book. The only thing is, I hated who the murderer was! I was appalled and heartbroken. What a tragedy.
Last but not least. I can’t stand that horrible Olivier who was freed from prison at the end of the book. He is a terrible person. And everyone loves him. I don’t get it. He had only himself to blame for being mistakenly convicted of murdering the Hermit. Stupid, greedy, ugly choices and actions. And Lies. The constant lies. In The Brutal Telling, after being lied to over and over Gamache begs him for the truth so he can help him. Olivier finally seems to realize it’s the end of the line and swears that this time he is telling the truth. What do we get? More lies. If he had finally told the whole truth after squandering chance after chance, Gamache would have looked elsewhere and the real murderer might have been discovered in the first book. And Then! And THEN! Gamache APOLOGIZES to him for having arrested him to begin with! After reopening an investigation that was over and done with it and saving Olivier’s life, Olivier has the gall to declare in front of everyone that he can’t forgive him yet, but maybe in time. Maybe. WHAT? And our buddies in Three Pines just go along with this mess. He gets a hero’s welcome from them when he should be given the cold shoulder and a punch in the nose.
So yes, all of the great things I love about Louise Penny were there: humor, deep interesting character development, a good puzzle, etc. etc. But there were too many disturbing turns to knock this down to 3 stars for me, when it is one of the very highest rated of her books from other readers.
July 17, 2018