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 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 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 mysterymax
I was absolutely thrilled to find Armand Gamache back at work because the last book was such a let-down. He has come out of retirement to head the Sureté Academy with the goal of ending the source of the corruption that has infiltrated the Sureté du Québec, once and for all. More is going on than the problems with the Academy. An old map has been found in the walls of the bistro that holds a mystery and, of course, the two stories became intertwined. Armand gathers together those he suspects of being sources of the corruption in the Sureté and adds them to the Academy staff; some to catch and some to offer a chance of redemption. He has also accepted a student at the Academy who had been rejected by his predecessor. Amelia is not a “fit”–body tattoos, piercings and dyed hair. Armand had reviewed her application, first rejecting it, then accepting it, then rejecting it and finally accepting it. Her presence is a mystery; no one can understand why Armand has chosen her. With Penny’s compelling writing all the characters of Three Pines enter your life and you discover with them the mystery of the map, the resolution of the Academy’s problems, why Amelia is at the Academy and finally, after all this time, we learn why Three Pines is not on any map. It was a magnificent read.… (more)
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 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 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 Maydacat
Armand Gamache has a new job and a new challenge. Realizing that the corruption that permeated the Sûreté had its beginnings in the Academy, he becomes its Commander with the determination to eliminate the problem at its onset. Setting up a scenario with adversaries teaching the cadets, he knows he may have started something in motion that he cannot control and may have dire, even deadly, consequences. Complicating matters is an old map discovered in the walls of the bistro that seems to have a strange connection to the village. More secrets surround the mysteries, and the way they come together and are resolved create an astounding finish to the novel. If this is the first Gamache novel you have discovered, by all means, go back and read the series from the beginning. This novel is a continuation of the characters readers have come to love, and their back-story is important for getting the most from the novel. Penny’s writing is fluid and lyrical, and infused with humor and irony as she weaves a tale of mystery and intrigue. This installment is undoubtedly the best of the series and again, leaves us wanting more.… (more)
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 sblock
Even though I identified the murderer early on, I found myself reading the last few pages in the car--I was that engrossed in the story. Be sure and read the acknowledgements. Penny's husband suffers from Alzheimers, and her observations on this tragedy show a depth of compassion worthy of Armand Gamache. I want to move to Three Pines.… (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 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 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.
LibraryThing member cameling
Our dear Inspector Gamache has taken on a new job as Commander of the Surete Academy. His goals are perfectly commendable, as is to be expected of this man, but this decision brings his past to the surface. In his effort to change the caliber of agents graduating from the Academy, he makes dramatic and to some, questionable changes to the teaching staff.

When a corrupt professor is found murdered and an old map found in his bedside table drawer which turned out to be one of 5 copies made by Commander Gamache, it is Gamache himself who is under suspicion. All the main characters of the Three Pines and his old team are once again brought together as they try to solve the mystery of them map while the murder investigation gets underway.

When I first embarked on this book, I wondered if I would still find The Three Pines as fresh and charming as I did during my first encounter. I'm pleased to report that the familiarity of the characters continued to warm my heart. There are complex suspects that keep us guessing right up to the last chapter of the book.
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