A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny reviewed

A Great Reckoning Book Cover A Great Reckoning
Louise Penny
August 30, 2016

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.

This is another tale of Armand Gamache and Three Pines. I came late to this series and Louise Penny however I felt at home immediately with the writing and characters. I’ve since read most of the earlier books and I would suggest reading them in order. It would be possible to read them as standalone books mostly (although one or two really do follow on fully from each other). However throughout the books there is the overarching story of corruption in the Surete at the very highest levels. Gamache has been steadily dealing with the issue as well as the individual story lines. This one does come with a feeling of “A Great Reckoning” to this aspect of the story.

Having been semi-retired Gamache decides takes on the leadership of the Surete Academy. He suspects that all is not well there and that cadets are being trained in an inappropriate way at the very least. He considers this job to be “clearing out a cesspit”. This book has a rather different approach to previous ones. There is no murder in Three Pines at the start and a quest for information about an old map forms a central part of the story. Four of the academy cadets stand out and there is obviously something rather special about one in particular.

So the question is – as I’ve enjoyed all the previous Gamache books why do I find this one more interesting and compelling than some? Louise Penny’s writing is so well crafted however that is common to all the books. Reading them is so easy and it does indicate just how much work has good into the writing. This one seems to have a slightly different feel to me. Maybe it looks as though there may a resolution to the deep seated corruption in the Surete. The use of the old map and the story around it I really loved. The story line relating to Amelia – one of the four cadets – brings out such a fundamental characteristic of Gamache too and I loved that as well. So I could argue that this is the best of the Armand books I’ve read. I’m sure he will forgive me the familiarity – to me he is an old friend. There is a depth and tenderness here – something unusual in a book dealing with murder and cruelty.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review