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.
I received this book about a month ago, although I didn’t know what it was about. I hadn’t read anything by Louise Penny before and the book came as a total surprise, but I knew I’d enjoy it as soon as I read the blurb in the back cover.
However, this was #12 in the series, so at first I was a bit worried I would be confused, but I wasn’t, really. Sure, I had to guess some stuff regarding some of the characters and maybe I’d have liked it even better if I had read the previous books, but I still loved this novel immensely.
Except for a few mentions of technology and other minor stuff, if anyone had told me this was written fifty years ago, I would’ve believed them. A Great Reckoning felt like a true classic, a vintage mystery, one that Agatha Christie could’ve easily crafted.
The book is set in Québec (I think I had never read any book set in Canada before), in an idyllic village called Three Pines and also, in the Sûreté academy (Québec’s police academy). The book focuses not on one but two great mysteries: a shocking murder that takes place in the academy and the discovery of an an old map that might be related to the previous crime.
Our main character is Armand Gamache, a fifty-something man, former chief of homicide, who is now Commander of the Sûreté academy. I liked him a lot: Gamache was so honest and fair, so incorruptible, I really admire that in cops (although he probably isn’t as attractive as Al Pacino in Serpico 😋).
The novel dealt with some interesting topics like friendships, power and trust. What I liked most was how Gamache had previously cleaned up the police force from all traces of corruption and now he wanted to center his attention on the beginning of it all: the academy. He knew cadets were being taught the wrong values and he wanted to prevent that, which I thought was a very noble idea.
As in Agatha Christie’s novels, Armand Gamache doesn’t always share his thoughts with the reader and he sometimes conceals information. You know he has his own suspicions and he often does things you don’t understand, but he always has his motives and everything is explained at the end.
If you want a classic mystery with realistic characters and a brilliant setting, then go buy this book immediately. You won’t regret it.
P.S I loved the film reference.
Little Brown, 2016
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.