Review: A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

Review: A Great Reckoning by Louise PennyA Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #12) by Louise Penny
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #12
Pages: 400
Published by Minotaur Books on August 30th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

The next novel in Louise Penny's #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.
Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.
And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.
Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.
The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.
For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel.

My Review:

In this 12th book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, maps ARE magic. And everyone is fine. Sometimes just fine but all too often FINE, poet Ruth Zardo’s acronym meaning “Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Egotistical.”

nature of the beast by louise pennyAt the end of the utterly marvelous The Nature of the Beast, Gamache (and the reader) are left with several burning questions. Only one of those questions gets answered in A Great Reckoning. It’s the question of what will Armand Gamache, retired Chief of the Homicide Division of the Sûreté du Québec, do for a second act? Gamache is in his late 50s, and still has more than enough time to make his mark on another service.

And there are plenty of services interested in letting him do just that. Not just in Canada, but internationally as well. In the end, he chooses to finish what he started in A Fatal Grace and brought to an explosive conclusion in How the Light Gets In. He has cleaned up the rot at the top of the Sûreté du Québec, but there is still a cesspool left at the bottom. Or at the beginning.

The corruption at the top wanted to make sure that it would continue to flourish for decades. The way to do that was to create new agents to fill in the ranks of those fallen by one wayside or another. The late and unlamented head of the Sûreté appointed his own agent to run the Sûreté Academy, thus ensuring an endless pipeline of young agents who had been trained to see the people they were supposed to serve as an enemy to be beaten and brutalized at every turn.

Gamache takes the position of Commander of the Academy, to root out the last vestiges of that rot. While he fires many of the corrupt “old guard” he leaves a few in place, under the principle of keeping his friends close and his enemies much closer.

But he doesn’t watch them carefully enough. He thinks he’s starting to get a handle on what has gone wrong. Some of the freshmen, at least, can be saved. But only if Gamache figures out exactly how deep and disgusting the merde is before it swallows both the Academy and himself whole.

By the time a corpse floats up out of the stink, it is almost, but not quite, too late.

Escape Rating A+: I finished this is less than a day. Just like so many books in this series, once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

There is always a mordant sense of humor in this series, Some of that is born from the situations, but much comes out of the very diverse characters that populate Gamache’s world and the village of Three Pines. Because we already love these people, even the frequently profane and generally misanthropic poet Ruth Zardo, the way that they interact with each other, the teasing and bantering that comes of long and loving friendship, brings a chuckle at the most unlikely of places.

still life by louise pennyThis is a series that rewards readers who start from the very beginning with Still Life. (Do not take the short cut of watching the made-for-TV movie instead of reading the book. This is a case where the movie does not remotely live up to the book. It’s not awful, but it isn’t really Gamache or Three Pines)

We start out with two mysteries, one seems new, and one is long-standing. In the end, both mysteries have been years in the making. And there’s a third, which we discover that we should have expected all along, but don’t even realize until near the end.

There has always been a mystery surrounding the village of Three Pines. It appears on no map. None. GPS can’t find it. There is no internet service and no satellite coverage. This seems like magic, or perhaps fantasy, but is nevertheless true. So when Reine-Marie Gamache finds a map to Three Pines among the detritus excavated from the walls of the bistro when it was redecorated, questions about the map spring up like weeds. Who drew this map? And why are there no others?

Gamache, in what seems like an attempt to engage some of the more disaffected students, assigns two seniors and two freshman the task of unraveling the mystery of the map and its origins.

When the much-feared and extremely corrupt former second-in-command at the Academy is found dead in his rooms with a copy of the map at his bedside table, the former and current purposes of the map take on sinister overtones. While it seems that Gamache continues the cadets’ assignment in order to keep them busy and safe in Three Pines, he always has a secondary and tertiary reason for everything he does.

And he really does want to solve this particular mystery. But not half as much as he needs to figure out who murdered Serge Leduc. Because someone seems determined to pin the murder on him. And while Gamache did not murder the slime, the more he uncovers about exactly what Leduc was doing to the cadets, the more he knows that he could have. Even his closest friends begin to suspect him.

In the end, this is a case that reaches back to the very beginnings of Gamache’s life, and who and what made him into the person he is. It is also a story that reminds us that the barbarian is not at the gates, but that we have already, perhaps unwittingly, let him in.

There’s a lesson in this story,as there often is in this series. In this case, it all boils down to, “Don’t believe everything you think.” You’ll think about that long after you close the book. I know I am.

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