A Great Reckoning: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel)

by Louise Penny

Hardcover, 2016

Call number





Minotaur Books (2016), Edition: 1St Edition, 400 pages


" 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. "--… (more)

Media reviews

This complex novel deals with universal themes of compassion, weakness in the face of temptation, forgiveness, and the danger of falling into despair and cynicism over apparently insurmountable evils.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lit_chick
“But on the village green itself stood the three tall pines from which the village took its name. Vibrant, straight and strong. Evergreen. Immortal. Pointing to the sky. Daring it to do its worst. Which it planned to do.” (Ch 2)

A Great Reckoning opens in Three Pines to fresh snow, and breakfast of café au laits and almandine croissants at The Bistro. Gamache is reading and coding personnel files. As retirement continues to allude him, he has taken a new post as head of the Sûreté's training academy, and is hell-bent on cleaning up the merde left behind by Chief Superintendent Francoeur. But surprisingly, even as Gamache makes sweeping changes to curriculum and admissions, and dismisses several staff, he keeps on the “most senior and corrupt professor, Serge Leduc” and “the quisling Michel Brébuf.”

Experienced enough not to expect a smooth transition into his new position, Gamache is prepared when he takes up office at the Sûreté's training academy – but not for a murdered professor. Four young cadets who were protégées of the deceased are prime suspects – among them Amelia Choquet, whom Gamache himself recently recruited. Tattooed, pierced, guarded, and angry, Choquet is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up – and yet here she is. Still more odd, discovered with the body is a copy of an intricate, old, orienteering map that had been found stuffed into the walls of The Bistro and presented to Gamache as a gift when he started his new job. The investigation soon turns toward Gamache: to his mysterious relationship with Amelia Choquet, and his possible involvement in the crime.

I’m so delighted that Penny has continued to write her Three Pines series. The characters have become old friends, and the quaint village in Quebec’s Eastern Townships is, I think, a place I’d like to retire! Highly recommended, both A Great Reckoning and the entire series.

"The real criminals, the worst criminals, weren’t found off the beaten path. They were found in our kitchens, at our tables. Unspectacular and always human.” (Ch 34)

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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
How does she do it? Another book replete with beloved characters, a fascinating plot, and a mystery. It is hard to describe the intense attachment I feel for the village of Three Pines, it's residents, and Inspector Gamache. They are real in my heart!
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
This, the twelfth book in the Inspector Gamache series, was my favorite so far. Armand Gamache has accepted a post as Commander of the Sûreté du Québec Academy, which trains cadets for service. In previous books, Gamache systematically rid the Sûreté of corruption. Now he has an opportunity to address the effects of that corruption on new cadets, and ensure they join the force committed to the values of the Sûreté. He dismantles and rebuilds the staff, and personally oversees the selection of freshman cadets. When a murder occurs inside the Academy, Armand realizes his restructuring did not go far enough. He must play two roles: as Commander, ensuring the safety of the young cadets, and as a member of law enforcement, doing everything possible to bring the killer to justice.

There’s a second mystery in this novel, concerning the origins of an orienteering map found in Three Pines. Gamache assigns four cadets to investigate, initially as a training exercise. The stakes are raised when it seems possible the map is linked to the murder. And throughout the novel, there are hints Gamache has a personal connection to one of the recruits. Louise Penny ties it all together masterfully, while continuing to develop the characters in Three Pines and at the Sûreté. Loved it.
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LibraryThing member Twink
I am a huge fan of Louise Penny and her Inspector Gamache series. I've read or listened to them all. The latest (and number twelve) in the series is A Great Reckoning. I chose to listen to it as well.

Now, having expressed that I am a diehard fan, I must admit that the last few books have not been my favourites. I found them distinctly slower paced following on the heels of the long building Sûreté corruption scandal. With a resolution in hand, Gamache has retired and permanently moved to the quaint and quirky town of Three Pines.

Penny combines the best of both worlds in this latest offering. A map is found in the walls of the Three Pines bistro. It's an odd, old map, but is definitely depicting the village of Three Pines. But the village does not appear on any current maps and unless you know it's there, you would not be able to find it. Why is that? And what is the old map pointing to? But retirement hasn't lasted long for Gamache. He has again taken up the challenge of ridding the Sûreté of corruption - this time in the cadet training college.

Penny's plotting is at the top of her game in A Great Reckoning. Gamache has an intricate plan to rid the college of corruption. But there are those plotting just as hard against his actions. When a professor is killed, the stakes are raised for everyone.....

What can I say about this series? It's absolutely wonderful - I love all of the characters. I've become invested in not only Gamache, but the residents of the village and their personal lives. It's hard to pick a favourite - but I am drawn to the grumpy old poet Ruth. She has hidden depths behind the façade she presents to the world. And darn it, I would love to live in Three Pines! As I said, the plotting is intricate and intriguing and incredibly well played. I truly had no idea where Penny was going with this latest.

When Ralph Cosham died (he embodied Gamache for me) I wondered if I could get used to the new reader. And the answer is yes, I have. Robert Bathurst has a lovely rich voice with an English accent, but he handles the French words and accent very well. His tones are modulated, again embodying Gamache's character. (He rarely raises his voice) He's easy to understand. He also provides different voices for the large supporting cast. I particularly like his voice for Ruth and her duck.

Just an excellent listen and I'm so looking forward to the next in this series.
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
I've been waiting for the 12th book in the Three Pines/inspector Gamache series since I finished the 11th book last September. I thought this was another excellent installment. Gamache takes on a new role with the Surete, but we also spend plenty of time with our friends in Three Pines. The mysteries (one old and one new) intertwine and propel the story forward. Knowing that Penny was dealing with her husband's dementia while writing this book amazes me even more.

Although this was a fantastic read, it was a little bittersweet. My mom and I read this series together. Every August, we would buy the next installment. She'd always finish first, but would wait patiently for me to finish so we could discuss the latest events in Three Pines. Ruth was her favorite character. She would have loved this one.
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LibraryThing member EadieB
Book Description
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 Surete du Quebec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Surete 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 protegee 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
This is the 12th book in one of my favorite series. You will enjoy this book better if you read the series in order so you can get the background of the characters. In the last book Gamache has retired and is trying to decide what he will do next. In this book we find out that he has decided to rid the Surete academy of the corruption that has been breeding there for years. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot which keeps the pages turning until the very end which has many surprises. We get another glimpse into the background of Gamache and learn more about his upbringing. If you haven't started this series yet, you need to as Louise Penny can tell a good story and you don't want to miss this series with it's many quirky characters from Three Pines near Montreal Canada.
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LibraryThing member bookappeal
The writing is lyrical and beautiful, as always, as Armand Gamache takes on a new challenge, but the latest in the Three Pines series also features an intricately plotted and satisfying mystery. The camaraderie of the characters of Three Pines shines through, with humor lightening the darkness as the author explores themes of compassion, forgiveness, and second chances. Best book in the series.… (more)
LibraryThing member Beamis12
To say she has done it again is an understatement. I very seldom rate mysteries five stars but in this case it is well deserved. Gamache accepts a job as the head of the Surete, the school where cadets train. But why and what does he hope to accomplish there? Some of the most well known players from previous books return. There is a murder and a map, a new cadet with ties to Gamache. Three Pines is featured prominently in this one, the characters, the church. Old mystery, new mystery.

Louise Penny has such a winning combination in these books. The characters, I always wonder if I actually met Ruth if I would like her, and well all of them, all add something special. There is friendship, love, caring and cunning, loyalty and a very smart, wonderful man in charge. In this book I ran through a gambit of emotions, fear, wonder, laughter and yes, one part even brought me to tears. How many authors can accomplish this? Even some of the bad are more than just that. So I take away a very important point, " Don't believe everything you think." just love that quote. Also, make sure you read the acknowledgements, they are extremely heartfelt.

ARC from publisher.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Recently retired from the Surete du Quebec, Armand Gamache has accepted a post at the Surete Academy. Now that he has rousted out many of those corrupt officers on the force, he's ready for a new challenge: molding the minds of the young men and women who are preparing to enter the Surete, even those cadets who have been tainted by their past, corrupt teachers. But even Gamache is surprised when a murder occurs in the walls of the academy.

Louise Penny's bestselling Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series needs no introduction. This is the twelfth in a series that has had its ups and downs - the middle books, in my opinion, were the strongest - and is not the best. However, I did enjoy revisiting favorite characters and discovering new ones. I did not guess the whodunit, but did guess another piece of the mystery so the last words didn't have quite the impact they were intended to. Recommended to fans of the series.
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LibraryThing member nbsp
I still enjoy all the characters in the Three Pines environs. It was nice to learn the origin of the three pines. I feel that perhaps the author is stretching to find plots equal to the setting and personalities we regular readers have come to love. In the previous installment, I felt a bit crotchety about the new narrator who had the giant task of stepping in for the well loved recently deceased Ralph Cosham. But I have come around. I like Robert Bathurst as the voice for Three Pines. Is it just me or has he dropped the cheeriness level a notch? His tone fits just right for me now. I believe this is the only series that I only experience in audio form and I'll hang in there for the next installment. Thank you, Mr. Bathurst, for that.… (more)
LibraryThing member diana.hauser
Exquisite. A beautiful tapestry of words - thoughtful, provocative, ethical, elegant, meditative - woven together with love into a perfect masterpiece.
The acknowledgements made me cry.
A wonderful, precious writer is Louise Penny.
A great book, not to be missed, is A GREAT RECKONING.
Ms. Penny’s writing always lifts me up - my own moment of zen.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I am amazed at what Louise Penny has accomplished with this book. Not only did it keep me guessing to the end and reveal new insights into the characters I have grown to love but she did it all while caring for a husband in the latter stages of dementia. I don't think I have ever cried over an author's acknowledgements but I did over Louise Penny's in this book. Brava Ms Penny.

Armand Gamache has decided to come out of retirement to head up the Surete Academy which is where all the people who become police officers in Quebec receive their training. He was responsible for cleaning up the rot in the Surete itself just prior to retiring to Three Pines but he has decided that many of the problems still exist because of the training given in the Academy. He fired many of the old staff and brought in new professors of his own. However, there are a few curious decisions he has made. He asked one of the senior people disgraced in his purge of the Surete to come back to teach ethics. This man was once his best friend, best man at his wedding and godfather to his children and the revelations about his corruption hit Gamache hard. Almost as bizarre was his decision to keep the Academy's second in command in place since he had proof that the man had been involved in price gouging and other financial improprieties when the Academy was built.
Back in Three Pines Madame Gamache has settled in well and is helping the historical society catalogue the vast amount of material it has collected over the years. It is natural that she would dig in when Ruth Zardo is turned loose on a box of materials that were found in the walls when the bistro was renovated. The discovery of an old hand drawn map of the surrounding era is the best find. Olivier has the map framed and gives it to Gamache when he starts his new job so that he can find his way home. The map will go on to play a major role in the book. When The Duke (the aforementioned second in command) is found murdered in his rooms at the Academy a copy of the map is found in his bedside table.

There are some hints at the end of the book that Gamache will not be staying on at the Academy. I can hardly wait to find out what new challenges await him.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Now that the corruption has been removed from the Sûreté, Armand Gamache leaves retirement to address the corruption that remains in the training academy. His first task may be the most important. Which professors will stay, and which ones must go? Which applicants will be admitted, and which will be rejected? The safe choice may not be the right choice. A murder inside the academy will have not just Gamache, but also his former colleagues in the Sûreté questioning his decisions. And thinking the unthinkable. Could Gamache himself have been driven to murder?

I have mixed feelings about this book. I love the subplot about the history of Three Pines that has its residents and some of the cadets searching archival materials. And I love that we finally learn why Three Pines doesn't appear on maps. I wasn't as satisfied with the murder plot. It isn't as well-paced as many of the earlier novels in this series. It also felt like a rehash of the plot of the last book in the series. That plot centered on big guns used for warfare; this plot centered on hand guns. I hope Penny has worked the gun topic out of her system with this book.

Many of the books in this series explore an emotion. This book explores fear – of failure, of making the wrong decision, of the exposure of long buried secrets. Penny must have been wrestling with her own fears as she wrote this book. The acknowledgments at the end of the book reveal that her husband is suffering from dementia. My heart goes out to her.

This review is based on an electronic advance readers copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
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LibraryThing member cmt100
This is a wonderful series, and Penny's latest is one of her best. Now that I have finished it, I am bereft. I miss all those people. The only thing to do is start at the beginning of the series and read them all again.
LibraryThing member bogopea
This is the 12th mystery by Louise Penny featuring Chief Inspector Gamache. I would rate it one of her best. As usual, there are a few plotlines going on, and new characters as well as beloved old characters. Having read all of her books and always looking forward to the next, I have a few issues. One would think that one of the primary characters (Amelia) had a hardscrabble, dysfunctional life to be where she was when the book opened. I would have liked to know more about the person she was at that time and how she came to be. My other issue is that Ruth seems to be mellowing. Say it isn't so! I love this series.… (more)
LibraryThing member alanteder
Solid continuation of the series as Armand Gamache takes over as Commander of the Sûreté Academy. The Sûreté du Quebec is the equivalent of the State Police in that Canadian Province.

This is a terrific logical step in the Gamache series as it allows him to mentor an entire expanding cast of new recruits. One of these recruits is even in the goth/edgy style of Lisbeth Salander (of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series) but instead of hacker skills she brings a knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin to the cast.

There is a mystery at Three Pines and a murder at the Academy and the two plots are handled well together with the recruits crossing over to meet the characters of the village. Ruth and her duck make their always welcome curmudgeonly cameo appearances.

Highly recommended to fans of the series, which is best read in order but it wouldn't be very disorienting to even read this as a first timer.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
I wish I could give this 3.95 stars…a 20th of a point off for extending the old story line once it was so clearly “done”. That said, we still have another warm story about Gamache & Co. and that is always a good thing for me.

Unlike some of the others in the series, there isn’t a huge amount of suspense. If you care to, you can probably figure out whodunit and you can probably figure out the mysterious new character. This isn’t a problem, however, as the strength of these books lies in the characters and their relationships, not in thriller plot twists. In that regard, this addition to the series doesn’t disappoint.

However, the subplot of the mysterious map (just mentioning something that’s on the cover, no spoiler) is rather tantalizing and made this a very enjoyable read. The resolution to this was one of the best parts of the book.

As always, recommended.
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LibraryThing member sleahey
Gamache comes out of retirement to take the leadership role of the Surete's Academy, which is permeated with corruption and a pedagogy of cruelty and negativism. He leaves the ringleader in place and brings aboard his best friend and nemesis, in order to keep an eye on them and find proof to bring them to justice. Instead, the ringleader is murdered and Gamache is a suspect. As usual, he finds both safety and danger in Three Pines, and the resolution is both surprising and satisfying.… (more)
LibraryThing member mamzel
Chief Inspector Gamache came out of retirement to head the Surete's police academy. Created in scandal, it had been a breeding ground for corruption that tainted the whole police department. After an overhaul of the teaching staff and reviewing the acceptances for the coming year, Gamache tried to use his virtuousness to redirect the systemic evil that had been coming out of the school. The very first year, however, one of the main sources of corruption was found shot in his rooms, the weapon a revolver that should not have been in the building.

A second mystery, back at Three Pines emerges when a wall repair in the B&B revealed a trove of old papers including a map that brought up a lot of question.

Merging these two stories together we have a story that slowly grows and shows itself to be more complicated than it seemed at first.

This episode seemed, somehow, a little slower than previous books, with clues painfully slow to be revealed. If any lesson is to be learned, it's how small our world really is.
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LibraryThing member bookswoman
Excellent edition to the Gamache series. Armand Gamache has come out of retirement to become the head of the Surte Academy. It has become a training school for cruelty and arrogance instead of a training ground for bright, young, eager recruits. After mostly cleaning house of bad instructors, Gamache has kept a couple of the old guard (why, no one else knows) and brought back an old friend/enemy.

There is so much to love about this book as a story but the kicker is the afterward where the author talks about her husband and the struggles with his health. It hits very hard because I read it just two days after reading that he had died. Powerful, moving and heartbreaking.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
A Great Reckoning, Louise Penny, author; Robert Bathurst, narrator
This is book 12 in the detective series with Chief Inspector Gamache. I love the quiet wisdom and strength with which the author has imbued Commander Armand Gamache. His authority and power come from his dignified bearing not an attitude of cruelty or bullying or of reminding everyone of his importance. He is always perfectly in control of himself in a way which leads one to respect him, and the author has painted him perfectly for the role. I love his sense of humor and the way he banters with his wife. I admire their relationship which seems to be one of pure love and respect, a state few achieve. Many of the characters are charming and also quirky. Although some have achieved some success in their lives, they desire to remain unseen in the world and have chosen a remote and serene way of life. One of my favorite characters is Ruth who carries her duck Rosa with her. Quite truthfully, she has a colorful, expressive tongue that is most often like that of an angry truck driver rather than a lady!
After a recuperative hiatus because of a grave injury, Commander Gamache has returned to work, but he is no longer the Chief Inspector, rather he now heads up the Sûreté Academy. He is cleaning house, cleaning up the atmosphere of corruption at the Academy and trying to soften the atmosphere of brutality some of the cadets seem to have adopted. In this regard, he has fired a good deal of the staff, and the replacements have been carefully chosen by him for the specific purpose of recreating a healthy, professional atmosphere. He has, also, thoughtfully chosen the new recruits based on what he hopes is their ability to succeed in their future careers, giving one particular student, Amelia Choquet, a lifeline, a lifeline for which no one understands his true motivation. Has he made the right choices to accomplish his goals or will he fail because his ultimate path and purpose is too dangerous?
When a seemingly innocent, but odd-looking map is discovered, Gamache assigns four of his cadets to discover its meaning. This simple assignment sets the wheels in motion and opens up a Pandora’s Box which eventually becomes the catalyst for a murder, and also for the beginning of the cure for what had ailed the Sûreté Academy. The mystery and the corruption had risen to the highest levels of the law enforcement organizations, in the Academy, the Sûreté du Quebec and in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
This is not a thriller holding you at the edge of your seat; this is a thoughtful police investigation, revealed layer by layer, step by step, by the incredible Commander Gamache with his patient thoughtfulness and careful reasoning. Once you begin, you will not want to stop reading until you find out all of the secrets and lies so you can solve the multiple mysteries revealed as the story plays out.
The interactions between all of the characters are at times serious and at times infused with a cheerful good humor. Most, in spite of all their shortcomings, and/or strengths, are highly likeable, although there are some who are far from admirable, as in the swindlers, the betrayers and the sadists. Each of the characters, warts and all, is developed so that he/she comes to life on the page. Each seems all too real, even in their oddness.
The reader is fantastic; he is a narrator extraordinaire. He has captured the personality of each and every character in their own distinctive way so that none bleed on to the other and each stands out as a separate and recognizable entity. Each of the Gamache novels can also stand alone, and each new one is as enjoyable as the last. The characters are developed and the inspector and his wife are warm and inviting. They bring you into the tale with their charm. The Inspector Gamache stories are exciting, entertaining and appealing.
The novel does not rush to its conclusion, in which every “t” is actually crossed and every “i” is dotted, but rather it gently meanders there, creating intrigue, misdirection and interest, drawing in the reader and holding him fast until the conclusion. The journey from beginning to end is a pleasure. What does the map represent? Who is the student to whom he throws a lifeline? Why does he do it? Your suspicions will constantly be aroused, but I doubt anyone will guess any of the answers to questions that arise, until the novel ends and reveals its secrets to you.
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LibraryThing member jamespurcell
A complex and very satisfying book. Gamache is shoveling out another Augean stable: the Quebec Surete Academy. His style and intervention strategies are questioned even by his supporters. Several history mysteries are uncovered and woven nicely into the plot enabling the locale to shift adroitly between the Academy and fabled but amazingly hidden Three Pines. The oversight by a senior RCMP officer exacerbates an already tense homicide investigation complicated by its locale, victim and the overwhelming abundance of police persons.… (more)
LibraryThing member brangwinn
My favorite Chief Inspector Gamache novel. He’s taken over the leadership of the police academy and has a novel approach for getting rid of the corruption by keeping two of the corrupt professors on board. The death of one of them leads to a murder investigation that could incriminate Gamache. Of course, the small village of Three Pines and its assortment of quirky inhabitant plays an important role and in a side story to the murder investigation we learn a lot more about the history of Gamache’s tiny village.… (more)
LibraryThing member delphimo
I needed a Louise Penny to finish a saddened Thanksgiving Day, and the final pages lifted my mood. Armand Gamache has undertaken to reform the corrupt Süreté Academy du Québec. The task will not be easy, as this is the training ground for mean and cruel new recruits. Poems by Jonathan Swift jump from the pages, maybe I need to find a copy of Swift's poetry. Four young lives hover between life and death. The sense of community and love and relationships dominant the pages. Why is Armand so caring? Is he an unobtainable image? Louise Penny writes a story with many levels and nuances, a story compelling to read to race to the last page to find the solution. The last page brings understanding but a sense of loss for the end of a wonderful story.… (more)
LibraryThing member Perednia
An excellent story of the difference between justice and the law, holding on and letting go, respect and control. It's also delightful to see the seeds of further stories have been shown. Louise Penny is a treasure.




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