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by Louise Penny
Minotaur, November 2022
400 pages
ISBN: 1250145295

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In Louise Penny's 18th novel featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his idyllic Quebec village of Three Pines, the past intrudes on the present. This series has always seemed to be a masterful melding of a cozy and a thriller. In each book, Penny spends time with the people of Three Pines and their quirkiness and their mostly loving relationships. Yet, also, in each book she focuses on a disturbing and contemporary topic.

In this current book, the trauma of past sexual abuse clouds the present as Gamache encounters a pair of grown siblings, a brother and sister he had met as damaged children in a previous investigation. Their childhoods had been destroyed by their mother's abuse. Their drug-obsessed mother prostituted them, and the life-long effects of that abuse is hard to codify. When the mother is murdered, Gamache was called in to find the murderer. What he discovered at that time and what transpired because of his findings are now haunting him with the ominous appearance of the adult siblings.

Because this murder investigation was how Gamache and his now son-in-law Jean Beauvoir first met, we learn about the beginning of their relationship and the difficulties that Beauvoir faced as a younger police officer. As events unfold in the present time, it becomes apparent that a diabolical plot has been carefully crafted by parties unknown. This carefully constructed scenario includes the re-creation of a famous painting, but with different details, a hidden room and a number of deaths. Almost too late, Gamache realizes that the aim of this elaborate creation is to destroy him and his family. Yet who is responsible and why is this happening? Is it the boy, who always seemed filled with remorse? Or is it his sister, who had successfully completed a college degree while serving time for the murder of her mother? Both seem equally innocent and equally guilty.

A hidden room is discovered when a letter mysteriously shows up, written by a stone mason from another century describing how he closed up the space. Gamache and the townspeople discover an odd painting inside. It is a reproduction of a famous painting, but it has been changed to reflect modern life. And that is not the only change. As Gamache stares at it, he realizes that the painting also points to another criminal from his past, someone who had committed horrific crimes but what supposed to be in jail for life.

Soon, all the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, present dangers growing out of past horrors. In his brilliant but low-key manner, Gamache proves once again that he and his family can withstand anything. He recognizes and outwits the villains as Louise Penny ties it all up in a masterful way.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, November 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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