Book Review: A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

Posted November 23, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
Genres: Mystery
Published by Minotaur Books on August 30, 2016
Pages: 389
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Still Life, A Fatal Grace, A Rule Against Murder, The Cruelest Month, The Brutal Telling, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, The Nature of the Beast, Still Life, Kingdom of the Blind, A Better Man, Bury Your Dead , The Beautiful Mystery , How the Light Gets In , The Long Way Home , The Nature of the Beast , A Great Reckoning , Glass Houses , All The Devils are Here

Twelfth in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series and revolving around a retired chief inspector, his family, and his friends. The setting switches between Québec and Three Pines, a small village.

My Take

It’s a story of regret and reverie as Gamache slips back, time and time again, into his past, into his memories of his parents’ death and his best friend since childhood. It’s a story with multiple conflicts, and I do mean multiple. Penny must have had to keep a spreadsheet on ’em!

The major conflicts involve an odd duck cadet, the old, odd map found in the bistro’s walls, and Gamache’s choices in his new job. All separate issues which Penny entwines together.

The recurring characters are adorable with their snarky remarks back and forth and their supportive love for each other. They’re warm and caring just as the settings are also warm and cozy. Wait until you get to the baptismal scene!! And then the perfect name for Ruth’s cottage… It. Is. So. Perfect!! ROFL.

“Everything in Olivier’s bistro was for sale, Including, he’d intimated more than once, his partner, Gabri.

‘A bag of candy and he’s yours,’ Olivier was heard to offer patrons…

“That is how he got me,’ Gabri would admit … ‘A bag of allsorts.'”

And thank god for all that warmth and support, for it’s needed to counter all the betrayals, corruption, and just plain cruelty that Gamache intends to stomp out.

Gamache’s patience always amazes me. I’d’ve tossed Jacques out on his ear by day three. Although, I did have to laugh when the cadets attempt to follow Gamache that first night.

Jeez, the power that educators hold over their students is terrifying.

There’s a fascinating bit of history on orienteering that makes me want to go out and run around in the hills and valleys. It gets even better as Monsieur Bergeron gets started on how geography influences history, war, and commerce. I think I had realized this subconsciously, but I’d never really put it together…it makes me want to re-read so many stories! And we finally discover why Three Pines has never been on a map.

There is a lot of fingerpointing, red herrings, and not-so-believable accusations. I don’t know if I didn’t believe the negatives because I “know” Gamache, or if Penny didn’t create that suspense that would make me wonder? There are more rough spots, in particular the ones involving the students. There were simply too many stupid, unthought-out incidents that made no sense. Jacques in particular was too stupid, and I certainly despised that little jerk.

Of course, once I read the Acknowledgments in the back, I understand why A Great Reckoning is not as polished as previous stories.

That said, you really must read Another FINE — Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Egotistical — Mess.

The Story

Gamache has cleared out the police department, and now he will tackle the last bastion of rot.

A corruption that involves an intricate old map, the enemy’s cadet protégés — one of whom is a deep, dark secret from Gamache’s past, nor is she the only emotional link to his past — and a murder that all too obviously points to Gamache.

It’s the outsider, the watchdog, assigned to oversee the murder investigation who forces that frantic search for answers that takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

The Characters

Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté Québec, retired and bought a house in Three Pines back in The Long Way Home, 10. Now he’s returning to Québec. His beloved wife, Reine-Marie, also retired from her position as one of the head librarians and has taken up with investigating the past. Henri is their German shepherd; Gracie is the new, um, puppy? Amelia and Honoré were Armand’s parents who were simply going out to dinner. Gamache thinks of Zora as his grandmother, and she was actually a displaced person after World War II.

Their daughter, Annie, is four months pregnant and married to Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, now Lacoste’s second-in-command. Daniel is the Gamaches’ son; he and their two daughters, Florence and Zora, live in Paris.

Three Pines is…

…a village that cannot be found on any map. Olivier and his partner, Gabri, run the B&B and bistro — with food, drink, and atmosphere that makes me want to up stakes and move to Canada. Ruth Zardo is an old lady with a vicious wit who happens to be well-known for her poetry. Rosa is her pet duck who goes everywhere with her. Clara Morrow is a renowned painter who was newly widowed. Leo is the new puppy she adopts. Myrna Landers, a big black woman, retired from being a psychologist and now runs the New and Used Bookstore in the village.

Monsieur Béliveau is the grocer; Sarah is the baker; Gilles Sandon is an artist who works in wood; Dominique and Marc Gilbert run the fancy B&B up the hill (The Brutal Telling, 5); Madame Legault‘s golden retriever has had puppies; and, Billy Williams finds some puppies in a garbage can.

World War I…
…affected Three Pines, and their dead — Etienne Adair, Teddy Adams, Marc Beaulieu, Fred Dagenais, Stuart Davis, Bert, Giddy, Rob, Pierre, and Joe and Norman Valois — were memorialized. Marie Valois was the mother of the last three boys. Anthony Turcotte was a renowned mapmaker, the father of all of Québec’s modern maps, in the early 1900s.

Monsieur Bergeron is the manager of toponymie for the area.

The Sûreté Québec is…

…the police in Canada. Thérèse Brunel is the chief superintendent, taking over from Michel Brébeuf. Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste took over as head of homicide when Gamache retired.Dr. Sharon Harris is the coroner.

Deputy Commissioner Paul Gélinas is the outside observer from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. His wife, Hélène, died three years ago.

The Sûreté Academy is…
…the school that trains future policemen. Chantal Marcoux is Gamache’s secretary. The instructors include the corrupt Serge “the Duke” Leduc who had been the true force behind the Academy until their house of cards fell; Hugo Charpentier who is suffering from something like Parkinson’s and is the most brilliant tactician; and, Marcel Godbut is a vicious, sadistic thug who teaches paper forensics.

Professors Meunier and Nadeau taught at a time when Armand and Michel were at school.

Cadet Amelia Choquet is the new goth girl at the top of her class — and struggling to survive — who values books. Huifen Cloutier is a third-year cadet involved with Jacques Laurin, the cadet of the year. Nathaniel Smythe is also new and gay, struggling to fit in. Other cadets mentioned include Thibodeau and Montreaux.

The Gaspé Peninsula is where Michel Brébeuf, the now former chief superintendent of the Sûreté, now lives. He had been Gamache’s best friend — and worst enemy — who had worked hand-in-hand with the now-dead Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur.

Saint-Alphonse is…
…the town Leduc swindled. Mayor Florent, who moonlights as a software consultant, is furious with the Sûreté. Marie is his long-suffering wife.

Elizabeth Coldbrook is the vice-president in charge of public affairs at McDermot & Ryan, the gunmaker.

The Cover and Title

The cover finds the reader looking up through giant conifers into a star-studded royal blue night sky. The author’s name is in an embossed gold while the title is an embossed white.

The title is a conclusion, A Great Reckoning of the series-long underlying conflict and a personal resolve for Gamache.

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