INSTANT #1NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A December 2018 Indie Next Pick One ofKirkus Reviews' Best of 2018 Picks BookPage Best of the Year 2018 A LibraryReads Pick for November 2018 A LibraryReads Hall of Fame Winner Washington Post's 10 Books to Read This November One of PopSugar's Best Fall Books to Curl Up With "A captivating, wintry whodunit." --PEOPLE "A constantly surprising series that deepens and darkens as it evolves." --Marilyn Stasio,New York Times Book Review Kingdom of the Blind, the new Chief Inspector Gamache novel from the #1New York Times bestselling author. When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder. None of them had ever met the elderly woman. The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane? When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing. But it isn't the only menace Gamache is facing. The investigation into what happened six months ago--the events that led to his suspension--has dragged on, into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip through his hands, in order to bring down the cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception. Enough narcotic to kill thousands has disappeared into inner city Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers. As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.
Keep them coming!
Well, this time no murder in the village. Instead Gamachehe and Myrna, arrive separately, not knowing the other was coming, at a tumbled down farmhouse. They are tasked, along with another new arrival, with a very strange request. Despite their doubts, they are intrigued and accept. This brings them into a mystery over 160 years old and bearing a famous name. Also of course, is the remnants from the last novel, missing drugs and a suspended Gamache.
This may well be my favorite entry, so far in this series. Trademark humor, tenderness, and of course some great investigative ability is shown. Gamache and his complicated character is fully didplayed. A few new characters too, and one that attaches to another, will be very surprising indeed. At books end, just when explanations are given, the cases wrapped up nicely or in some cases not, we are presented with x most unexpected zinger. Now I wonder just where the next book will take us. So I wait.
ARC from Minotaur books.
Gamache is invited by a notary to attend a meeting at a remote cottage near his Quebec home. He arrives during a blizzard where he is asked if he will be the liquidator (executor) of the will of a woman he never met. His fellow liquidators are his friend and neighbour Myrna and a young builder, Benedict, from Montreal. Neither of them, they say, knew the deceased either.
They accept the challenge and then decamp to Gamache’s home village of Three Pines (including Benedict, who is unable to return to Montreal because of the weather) and then begin to piece together the story of the deceased with their friends and neighbours.
Gamache is surrounded by a loving family, a cast of engagingly eccentric friends in Three Pines and the vividly rendered weather. All this gives it something of the feel of a cosy mystery. (There is, eventually, a murder.) There’s something comforting in reading about the beautiful but lethal cold of Quebec while safely tucked up in the warmth.
However, as the book went on I felt less engaged with it. There’s a subplot about a consignment of drugs and Penny’s portrayal of Montreal street culture and opioid abuse felt rather less convincing than that of the cafes and bookshops of Three Pines.
Even though I’ve previously written about preferring character-driven stories to a surfeit of procedure, I felt that in this book there perhaps wasn’t enough, and that the criminals had left a number of rather convenient clues.
Gamache is currently suspended from his police role (for reasons that are linked to a previous case which presumably is covered in an earlier novel) but his suspension is about as plausible as Rebus’ retirement. He is in the thick of everything, interviewing witnesses, chasing leads internationally, ordering around his subordinates.
As the book progresses, Gamache is shown to exert a tremendous influence over everyone around him, professionally and personally, often without their knowledge. He is like a god in their small universe. Whether you find his interventions charming and generous or controlling and a bit creepy is perhaps a matter of temperament.
The story around the unusual will is entertaining enough and the plot wraps up nicely. I enjoyed the setting and the warmth of the Three Pines friendships in Kingdom of the Blind but I’m not sure I’d want to invest more time in the series.
I received a copy of Kingdom of the Blind from the publisher via Netgalley.
When Chief Superintendent Gamache and Myrna, both receive a letter from a solicitor that summons them to appear at the home of Bertha Baumgartner, they are stymied. They have no idea who the person is and wonder if they should even appear there. Eventually, they do both go and discover each other there, with a third unsuspecting visitor, Benedict, as well. All three have been asked to come to the home of someone who called herself the Baroness. All three claimed not to have know her. When they are asked to be liquidators of her will, they are stymied. Why them? In addition, to the confusion, they must agree to take the job as liquidator before the will is even read. All three decide that they are game, and so the story begins.
Mrs. Baumgartner left a fortune to her three children, Hugo, Caroline and Anthony, in money and real estate. However, no one knew if it really existed. Her home was in terrible disrepair, and she was known as a cleaning lady. It came out that the family had been involved in a lawsuit with the Rothschild’s for decades. Was she really a Baroness? When the simple liquidation of the will turns into a murder investigation, Gamache is in the unique position of having to investigate both the murder and the background of the family. Is there a fortune? Who committed the murder and why?
Meanwhile, at the same time, Gamache is being investigated because of the part he played in the capture of drug lords. He made a decision to allow deadly drugs into the market place in order to capture them. Someone had to pay for that crime. If the deadly drugs got out, death would follow on a huge scale. Therefore, while he is being investigated, he is quietly investigating the whereabouts of the drugs as well. He knows his position is in jeopardy, whether or not he finds them. The politics involved was frustrating and it began to affect Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache’s son-in-law. He was in a very compromising position, having worked alongside of Gamache in the drug debacle and was asked to betray him.
Eventually, every loose end is tied up neatly, but I had to listen to several parts over and over so as not to lose the connection to the whole. Gamache remains, throughout, the lovable, gentle, humble and understanding character that he always is, Reine-Marie, his wife, is always supportive by his side. The town, the characters and the tales about Three Pines are unique and they embrace the readers and instill the desire in them to make Three Pines their home too! Even though the characters are quirky and out of the mainstream, they are united in the effort of caring for each other. It makes it a perfect place to live.
I love the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache mysteries. The narrator who reads the audios is perfect for the job. He never interferes with the message, but relays it to the reader on point with perfect tone and stress. This particular mystery in the series, however, seemed a bit disjointed to me. The plot seemed very convoluted. There were so many threads it was hard to keep track. There was the question of the settlement of a strange will and an investigation into the background of the deceased to find out if she was indeed from an aristocratic background with a large estate to be settled; there was a possible embezzlement investigation and a murder investigation that grew out of it; and there was an investigation into Inspector Gamache because of his recent drug bust which allowed a deadly drug to possibly hit the streets with dire consequences. This meant there was also an investigation into the drug world, concurrently, hopefully to find the missing drugs before they hit the street to prevent an untold number of deaths. On a lighter side, there was the inclusion of one of Clara’s paintings, for no known apparent reason, in the home of one of the heirs. It was an unusual one of Ruth, the unusual poet who loved her duck, Rosa. Then too, there were some odd budding romances at the end which I didn’t suspect, and big changes for the future of the Gamache family were predicted.
I, for one, can’t wait for the next Inspector Gamache novel to appear!
The second theme is the recovery of a huge cache of deadly drugs that Gamache let into the country in order to identify and capture the supplier. To understand this theme, one must have read the previous Gamache book, Glass Houses.
Penny touches on some interesting ideas in Kingdom of the Blind including investment embezzlement and repatriation of Nazi loot. It all comes together quite nicely. It's always a pleasure to read about the idyllic world of Three Pines and the usual cast of characters. A total enjoyment.
Armand Gamache (the former Head of Homicide; the current Chief Superintendent of the Surete du Quebec - on suspension), Myrna Landers (owner of Three Pines Bookshop) and Benedict Pouliot arrive at an abandoned, derelict house in the countryside. They have all received a ‘summons’ from a notary stating that they are liquidators/executors of a will left by a Bertha Baumgartner. A mystery, in that none of the three people - Armand, Myrna, and Benedict - say they know or have heard of said B Baumgartner.
While the mysterious will is an opening plot point, there are other mysteries that follow.
The plot details are so detailed. And the characters are all so painstakingly drawn. But the real power of a Louise Penny book is in the written word.
Reading this book is my own personal, perfect moment of Zen.
I noted several passages but two that stand out for me are:
Armand is speaking with Isabelle Lacoste and says, “What I was going to say is that my mentor had this theory that our lives are like an aboriginal longhouse.” “He said that if we thought we could compartmentalize things, we were deluding ourselves. Everyone we meet, every word we speak, every action taken or not taken lives in our longhouse. With us. Always. Never to be expelled or locked away.”
Armand Gamache’s code of conduct. Four steps which lead to wisdom. “I don’t know. I need help. I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
Ms. Penny’s acknowledgements will bring tears to your eyes.
Gamache is an exceptionally good man, husband, father, friend and detective. He listens, learns quickly, and understands what needs to be done to complete his cases. His selfless focus is on minimizing danger, saving lives, and always caring deeply about and helping all those around him. We would all benefit from a friend like him.
Kingdom of the Blind shows the egregious errors in life's balance sheets for those who choose cruelty over kindness, greed over generosity, and hate over love. There is always a price to pay for those holding onto anger, jealousy and resentment especially within families. Honesty, respect and forgiveness pave the way to let go and move forward.
I thought this was one of the stronger entries in the series, back to some of the more convoluted resolutions, and including some politics on the police force, as Jean Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's protegee and now son-in-law, deals with the internal investigation. There are several threads, as Gamache is also trying to find the missing drugs before they get out on the street, a side story that was just as - if not more - interesting than the main mystery. The book has the same faults and joys of the rest of series, but at #14 you pretty much know what you're in for when you pick it up.
The two cases moved toward resolution at a brisk pace, and along the way Louise Penny continued to develop the characters readers have come to know and love, and introduced new twists into their lives which left me eager already for her next book.
As with so many books in the series, we have a dual headed plot. At the end of the previous novel Gamache had taken the decision not to prevent the release of a new drug into North America and Canada. The cartel which has possession of the drug has not yet released it and Gamache has been suspended and is undergoing investigation. Most of the drug shipment has been recaptured but there is still some in Montreal still to be found. Its release will have disastrous consequences.
Almost a light relief, the second main plot sees Gamache and two others named as "liquidators" (executors) in the will of a woman whom he is convinced he has never met. "Baroness", Bertha Baumgartner, has left a bizarre will, based on a family legend that involves millions, some property, and a title, none of which seem to exist. In the process of investigating the background to the will, Gamache uncovers embezzlement and corruption at breathtaking levels.
An excellent read. I'm not sure whether there will be another in this series. If not, what a fitting conclusion!
As you'll see from the list below, I have read all the novels in this series.
My recommendation - read them in order! You won't regret it.
My average rating is just under 5.0.
Part of what has kept me reading the series is the excellent characterisation. Each of the characters has been built up carefully with wonderful descriptions, not the least Gamache himself.
I've also read
1. Still Life (2005)
2. Dead Cold (2006)
The above were read before this blog was begun.
4.8, THE CRUELLEST MONTH
4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER
4.9, THE BRUTAL TELLING
5.0, BURY YOUR DEAD
5.0, A TRICK OF THE LIGHT
4.5, THE HANGMAN - a novella
4.9, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY
5.0, HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN
4.9, THE LONG WAY HOME
4.9, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
5.0, A GREAT RECKONING
4.9, GLASS HOUSES
Gamache is on suspension for the things that occurred in the last book, Glass Houses, which included letting a large amount of carfentinal disappear. Jean-Guy Beauvoir was initially suspended as well but he is back in service as the acting head of Homicide. Isabelle Lacoste who was shot in the head in the last book is still at home recovering. Gamache is out in the stormy weather because he received a letter from a notary asking him to come to a remote farm house. Soon after he gets there Myrna Landers, the bookshop owner from Three Pines, also arrives and then a young man in a beatup truck turns up (Benedict Pouliot). They go in to the house to meet Lucien Mercier, the notary who sent them the letter. He (eventually) tells them that Bertha Baumgartner, former owner of the house, has died and named the three of them liquidators of her estate. This is a surprise since none of them had met or even heard of her before. The will contains even more surprises in the form of multi-million dollar bequests to each of the deceased's children. Since the storm is worsening all four hustle out of the farm house and back to Three Pines while they can still do so. With no power they can't do much until the storm passes so there is a quiet interlude while they try to figure out who Bertha Baumgartner was and why she thought she had millions to bequeath. In that regard Ruth Zardo, the cantankerous local poet, helps out by recalling the former cleaning lady that used to insist on being called The Baroness. When the roads finally open Gamache and crew can finally meet her three children, Anthony, Caroline and Hugo. Before that meeting can take place Gamache has to go to the Surete Training Academy to discuss what will happen to Cadet Amanda Choquette. Drugs had been found in her room and although she denies they are hers she is a former addict and prostitute. It appears that just when she might have turned her life around she reverted to her old ways. Gamache and the head of the Academy agree that she must be thrown out of the Academy. At Anthony Baumgartner's home Gamache, Myrna and Benedict learn that Bertha was descended from an Austrian named Baron Kinderoth. Baron Kinderoth had created mayhem when he died by leaving his estate to both of his twin children. For 130 years that estate has been in limbo while the Austrian courts determine who should succeed to the title and the estate. It is possible that Bertha was somewhat correct in her valuation of her estate if the court decided in her ancestor's favour. This is all very fascinating but the case takes a macabre turn when Anthony Baumgartner's body is discovered in the wreckage of the farm house and it is determined that he was murdered. Juxtaposed with the murder investigation is Gamache's determination to find the opiods that disappeared before they can be released into the hands of the drug addicts of Montreal. It all comes down to the wire for both investigations and in the aftermath things will never be the same for Gamache and Beauvoir.
One of the things that I appreciate in Louise Penny's books is how she interleaves moments of beauty and fun with the serious investigations. Although I don't want to spoil the book let me just say that due to reading this book I now have a picture in my mind's eye of our PM, Justin Trudeau, that I will never lose.
It's a busy story with a large cast of characters, held together by an unwavering focus on Gamache which moves it at a brisk pace to a soft landing with a satisfying finish. An intricate plot dominates it but does not overwhelm the balance of story, characters and sense of place. Highly recommended as an introduction to the Gamache series.