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by Louise Penny
Minotaur, August 2016
389 pages
ISBN: 1250022134

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When we last met Armand Gamache, he had just retired as Chief of Homicide at the Sret de Qubec. He and his wife Reine-Marie have left Montreal and settled in Three Pines, the Eastern Township village that does not appear on any official maps. Gamache is resting from his final task of cleaning house at the Sret, getting rid of the imbedded corruption that had haunted his entire career.

But Reine-Marie knows that he will not remain idle for long. Job offers are coming in fast and furious, and when he is offered the leadership of the Sret's Police Academy, she knows he will not be able to resist.

Gamache knows that the source of the corruption at the Sret began at the Academy where young minds were corrupted as they learned the skills of crime detection. He takes on the Augean task of cleaning up this final source of filth in Qubec's Provincial Police Force.

It does not take long for trouble in the form of murder to follow Gamache, as it always has. This time, however, the victim is a professor at the academy and the suspects are professors trained in the art of crime detection, or students learning this craft. The murder of Professor Serge Leduc might just be the perfect crime.

Once again Three Pines figures in the crime, as an old hand-drawn map of the hidden village turns up in the victim's night table, one of four copies recently in the possession of four cadets who have been asked by Gamache to look into the mystery behind the map.

For those new to Louise Penny's books, Three Pines is not only a place abounding in mysteries of its own, but home to a cast of characters as unique as they are varied, everyone from the gay couple who owns the B and B and the Bistro, to the foul-mouthed old poet Ruth whose greeting is most often the finger. There is also a renowned portrait painter and a Black woman who gave up psychotherapy to become the owner of the bookstore from which Ruth frequently steals books.

This motley crew shares coffees, drinks and communal meals at which their conversations are witty, scintillating and often laugh-out-loud funny. But the mysteries that surround Three Pines are terrible and often heartbreaking, as we have learned in the last twelve books in the series. A GREAT RECKONING offers up a mystery readers have been aware of since STILL LIFE, the first in the series, and finally solves it. Readers will be rewarded, learning why Three Pines does not appear on any official map.

But over at the Police Academy, Gamache starts to unearth a series of crimes behind the murder that are so unforgivable that the murder victim probably deserved his execution-style death. And it begins to look like Gamache might be the executioner. Even Jean-Guy, Gamache's son-in-law and second in command, begins to wonder about his patron.

Along the way, A GREAT RECKONING reveals surprise after surprise. Louise Penny has become a consummate crime writer, demonstrating over thirteen novels how to spin and then unravel intricate webs of mystery, while creating characters that we come to love and admire. Any reader who is not brought to tears at the end of this novel is stronger than I am. And I never cry!

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, September 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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