It's Gamache's first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter. As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.
Having said that, ion the [previous novel, Penny announced that Jean-Guy, Armand's next in command and son-in-law had accepted a job in Paris and it looked like Armand might retire. However, if he didn't, I was hoping to see what the author could do with a new character. So I was somewhat disappointed when Jean-Guy returns for his 'last case' in Canada. A Better Man has all the elements of a Armand Gamache novel.
However, it appears that even with people moving, the upcoming novels will contain the same characters. Ms. Penny, it's time to spread your wings and see what and who else is in the world for the residents of Three Pines.
By the way, the plot: everyone 'knows' who killed Vivienne. The question is are they right and can they prove it. Read it and find out.
There is...a lot going on here, and while I usually like the more intricately plotted entries in this series, I had a mixed reaction to its execution here. I did enjoy seeing character development and the suggestion of new directions in which the story might go in future installments. The mystery itself was a little confusing and frustrating, and I'm not totally satisfied with the conclusion. The ideas the author seems to want to explore about social media are potentially interesting, but hindered by the fact that - unless I'm totally misreading it - she doesn't describe how one would use Instagram accurately. I seldom read series this long, and I may be getting to the point where I'm ready to leave Three Pines behind. It's compelling, but I'm ready to either see the series develop in a new way or see what Penny would write with a completely different setting and characters.
She shows us the many depths of personality that can live inside one person. Characteristics based on the past, the present, life experiences that make us the people we are. She shows us friendship, love, respect, integrity, compassion, kindness and the struggle to know when to hold on and when to let go. Ratchets up the tension and then fits in some appropriate humor that makes us laugh. Oddly enough a new character comes to Three Pines and affects the future of one member. This was a particularly emotional entry in the series as one chapter closes and a new one begins. And now I am resolved, as I await the next in this stellar series.
"That twisted reality, until malice and truth were intertwined and indistinguishable."
ARC from Minotaur books.
I have only one other Armand Gamache mystery. This one convinces me I should read more!
Armand is back at work, demoted and brushed aside for another – his son-in-law! A flood is happening and Three Pines is in the crosshairs. A woman is missing and her husband, who may be a murderer, is unconcerned. A new agent is pushing for Gamache to take over the case. The missing woman’s father is threatening to murder the husband. And then there is the dog.
Oh my – all these plot points and we are only in the first few pages. The tension doesn’t stop until the last page in this engrossing mystery. Penny keeps the tension alive with just enough red herrings and plot twists to compel reading far into the night.
A well written, engrossing mystery with a familiar character in a new and uncomfortable situation.
5 of 5 stars
I love Louise Penny’s books about Inspector Gamache and eagerly await each new novel. This fifteenth novel does not disappoint. The main character, Inspector Armand Gamache is a man whose integrity and humility always stand him in good stead. He lives in Three Pines with his wife Reine Marie and all of the other quirky inhabitants of their idyllic Canadian village. Their antics and interactions endear themselves to the reader. Gamache is always thoughtful and patient and never arrogant or authoritarian. He always shows respect for those he commands and instructs. Though he was demoted because of his last investigation, when he went rogue to stop a massive drug drop on society, which involved many injuries and the deaths of many agents, he is now ready to return, even though it is in a lesser capacity.
Although his son in law, Jean-Guy, used to work for him, Armand is humble and has swallowed his pride and will now work for Jean-Guy, surprising those in charge who eagerly sacrificed him, ignoring the fact that his effort saved untold numbers of addict’s lives. They did not wish for Armand to return. Social media is alive with criticisms of him, and hateful comments about Armand abound, because no one really understands the sacrifice he had made to capture the major drug dealers who were willing to supply addicts with deadly drugs. His enemies have doctored videos, and put the hateful images online, in order to make people think he is a monster who kills irreverently, rather than a measured man of quiet temperament who believes in justice, above all.
In this next novel in the life of Inspector Armand Gamache, a pregnant woman, Vivienne Godin, has gone missing and one of the agents in the Sûreté du Québec has been contacted personally by the father of the missing woman and has been begged to investigate her disappearance. The agent, coincidentally, is her Godmother. Because Vivienne is married to an abusive husband, her father grew worried when she never showed up at his house. She was supposedly hoping to escape from the clutches of her husband, who beat her. When she did not arrive safely at her father’s home, her dad began to worry. Soon it was discovered that she even left her dog behind. Fred was going to be shot by her worthless husband, but Armand rescued him.
At the same time as this investigation is taking place, the spring thaw has turned very dangerous, threatening catastrophic flooding of the nearby river. It is raining which isn’t helping matters much, since if the dams break, it will be disastrous. Ice jams are piling up, and the river is rising higher than it ever has before. The neighbors begin to sandbag the banks of the river hoping to prevent the worst from happening. Still, it may not be enough. Gamache’s ususal strength of character serves him well and carries him through the following few days. He faces his detractors and weathers every storm.
There is a great deal of misdirection in the book and the reader will be suspecting many people of murdering Vivienne, but probably not the one who actually committed the crime! Several of the characters experience crises of character and are forced to look inside themselves to examine their motives and actions. The reader is forced to examine their own feelings when it comes to the idea of just how far a parent will go to find justice for a crime that takes the life of a child.
This is a story that takes place between a bridge and a river and it is an amazing one with more twists, turns, double and switch backs. Louise Penny has shown herself yet again to be a master story teller.
Certainly, if you're a fan of this series, I would absolutely recommend it. But I was somewhat disappointed.
A woman is missing. She has a friend in the Surete who pushes for an investigation even though there is an emergency situation caused by flooding in the area. Soon, Gamache (who has been demoted following the events in the previous book), Beauvoir (who will soon be leaving to live in Paris. But will he really??), and Isabel Lacoste are investigating the woman’s disappearance. Suspense builds just as you would expect. Several suspects but one stands out.
All good stuff. I still have my usual complaints about Penny’s horribly unsatisfactory sentence structure (read: sentence fragments, choppy construction, lousy punctuation, etc.) but I find I can just ignore it here where if I saw it in other boos I’d be appalled. Oh well, a very satisfying mystery at any rate.
Review of an ARC copy of the hardcover edition (2019)
I missed the usual cozy feel of the Three Pines gatherings in this latest outing. There was an overhanging sense of bitterness and backstabbing which was highlighted by nasty fictitious twitter comments being used as chapter epigraphs. Some of the subplots seemed to get short measure, such as the flooding, and I never really got the meaning of the backlash on Clara's art. Lastly the grim nature of the murder and its resolution left a feeling of despondency.
Still, any time spent with Gamache and Marie-Reine and Ruth and her duck is going to be entertaining and provide for some worldly wisdom and humour. I can't give less than a 4 rating even if I was slightly dissatisfied.
I was lucky enough to borrow a friend's ARC copy for this reading. I've since discovered that there is an author's Afterword that was not yet available for the ARC, and which explains some of her choices, so I'll have to seek that out as well in a final published copy.
A Better Man adds another success to Penny’s remarkably intelligent, moving and compelling Three Pines series. This book further develops the ongoing theme of art, the depth of feeling, pain, denial and revelation that artists experience in the process of considering and creating their art. Whether sculpture, paintings, crafts, wood-working or poetry, Penny uses art as a metaphor for and a way of explaining the emotional intensity of Gamache’s investigations, and for life itself.
Gamache and team learn of a missing woman and start an investigation but are forced to focus their attention on a devastating natural disaster, and prevent loss of lives. At a high-level meeting, opinions are given to the best course of action; Gamache is made to feel superfluous. After helping to support the efforts at Three Pines, and directing some ditch digging, he has headed off the urgent danger. But while doing this he finds Vivienne. He and his team are convinced that an abusive husband is the killer but when their case crumbles, they need to re-examine the evidence and re-think everything.
Pulling the rug out from under Gamache and her readers is a great strength of Penny’s. She masterfully leads us through many twists and turns, red herrings and clues, ups and downs until you are swallowed up, spit out and stunned. Emotionally bruising, and incredibly satisfying.
Sad to know that Jean-Guy Beauvoir and family are re-locating. Will Myrna’s life change? What about Clara; will her meeting with a new character help?
Excellent book, brilliant series!
It is early spring (April) in Quebec and as T.S. Eliot put it "April is the cruellest month..." After a cold winter the inhabitants of Three Pines are ready for some warm weather except when it comes the river starts to flood and they think there is a danger the small village will be inundated. It's a situation that is repeated across the province; extraordinary measures have to be taken. Armand Gamache, after being suspended because of the incident in Glass Houses, is back at work as a Detective Inspector. He will be taking over as head of Homicide when Jean-Guy Beauvoir takes a new job in Paris. However, for two weeks they will be working side by side with Jean-Guy being nominally superior in rank to Gamache. When the flood emergency is declared most of the officers are dispatched to help in whatever capacity they can. Agent Cloutier has asked to be allowed to help a friend whose daughter, Vivienne, has gone missing. Beauvoir agrees and assigns Gamache to help her. Vivienne was living with her abusive husband not very far from Three Pines. She had called her father 2 days ago and said she was ready to leave him since she was pregnant. She never turned up at her father's house. While trying to discover her fate Gamache and Cloutier also have to negotiate the bad weather, terrible roads and incipient flooding; it's such a typical Canadian situation. As well Gamache is the target of an online smear campaign as is Clara Morrow, the Three Pines artist. This is the first time I really remember Penny using Instagram and Twitter as a plot element. It does reinforce how quickly false information can be spread now; maybe Trump will become a fan.
Gamache is not infallible but he is a better person than many flesh and blood individuals are. We could all do better if we considered "What would Gamache Do".
A Better Man picks up where the last book left us - Gamache has been removed as Head of the Sûreté du Quebec. The higher ups offered him the position of head of the homicide department, working under his former second in command. They hoped he would not take the position, but he won't give them that satisfaction and takes the job.
The case of a missing woman is the first case that Gamache takes on - as a favour to another agent......and it seems there is indeed more to the case. At the same time, devastating floods are threatening the province. And Gamache is facing harsh criticism online and in house from both the public and co-workers.
Oh, what's not to love about Louise Penny's books. Gamache is one of the most well drawn characters I've ever read. His quiet intelligence, calm manner, strength of character and unerring moral compass have endeared him to me. The challenges he faces in The Better Man had me wondering what the outcome would be.
The supporting (and recurring) cast feel like old friends. Well, mostly. There are those in the Sûreté that have their own agendas. But, I am always happy to reconnect with the residents of the village of Three Pines. The villagers are people you would like to know in real life - even Ruth the poet and her duck. And who wouldn't want to live in this picturesque, off the map village? ( I do!)
Penny's plotting is just as well done. The cases are believable and engaging and take inspiration from current headlines. Judging and sentencing through social media, the reality of flooding in Quebec and the nature of the crime against the missing woman. Nuanced and a joy to read alongside Gamache as he endeavors to solve the whodunit. The question 'how would you feel…' is used more than once as the search for answers continues.
I love the continuity and am very much looking forward to the next entry in this series. There are imminent changes hinted at. I hope they don't transpire, but we shall see.
And if you've not read Penny before, do yourself a favor and start with the first book (Still Life)
It is about the story, of course. A mystery, a police procedural HAS to be ‘all about the plot’. In A BETTER MAN, there is catastrophic flooding in Quebec; a string of cruel, spiteful, dangerous social media attacks; and an urgent missing person request - all facing Armand Gamache’s team.
But Louise Penny’s books are noted for the writing, the essence of her words. She makes the weather an important character in her books. Her weather words and descriptions set the tone, the mood, the ‘essence’ of the locations and personalities of the characters. The weather determines the character and culture of the North, where the story takes place.
Armand Gamache’s code of conduct; the four steps which lead to wisdom takes on a personality (or character) of its own, also. “I’m wrong. I’m sorry. I don’t know. I need help.”
The watercolor image at the beginning of the book, the dedication, the acknowledgements, the psychological musings of the characters, the suspense, the weather words and descriptions, the growth and change in the characters - all make for reading pleasure.
Reading a book by Louise Penny is my own personal, perfect moment of Zen.
Highly recommended. *****
As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.
Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel..., he resumes the search.
As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made.
The focus was instead on the three investigators. Gamache has returned to the role of Chief Investigator but is sharing that role in Tthis one case with Jean-GuyBeauvoir in what is to be his last case. Working alongside them to solve the murde of a young woman is Isabelle Lacoste who is temporarily assigned as she's returning from a lengthy medical leave.
The mystery was surprising and wasn't as overly complicated with bureaucratic drama as some others have been. I was surprised by the outcome and was drawn into the story.
As a great flood is about to hit Quebec Lysette Cloutier an agent Gamache took from accounting and placed in homicide in order to help hunt down murderers financially has come to both Jean-Guy and Armand who are both running the homicide department until Jean-Guy leaves. Technically Jean-Guy is in charge, though. She comes to them for help in finding a friend's daughter who has gone missing. She is involved in an abusive relationship and she has decided to leave her husband and go to her father but she never showed up to her father's house.
It's obvious that her husband killed her especially when they find the body. But did he really kill her? Or was it his girlfriend or her boyfriend or someone else altogether? This will be Jean-Guy's last case which is sad. On top of all this, someone is slamming Gamache on Twitter questioning his fitness to be on the force and releases a bad video of him on there making it appear that he kills African American kids. Also, Claire is getting hit with negative reviews from her miniatures that she put on a display that is causing people to rethink her as an artist. This was an amazing book in that it kept you guessing all the way to the end. It's sad to think this will be the last time Lacoste, Beauvoir, and Gamache will work together. This was an excellent book to go out on. I give it five out of five stars.
It did not seem to Isabelle Lacoste a great addition to the Surete moto. Service, integrity, justice, and occasionally stupidity.
-Louise Penny (A Better Man p 105)
I’m well in body, but considerably rumpled in spirit.
-L. M. Montgomery (Anne Of Green Gables)
Alcohol stole dignity and friends and family and livelihoods before finally taking the life. Alcohol was a thief. And often a murderer.
-Louise Penny (A Better Man p 170)
Is it true? Is it kind? Does it need to be said?
-Louise Penny (A Better Man p 184)
The Chief would patiently explain that being still and doing nothing were two different things.
-Louise Penny (A Better Man p 226)
Seemed courtesy beat good sense. Almost to death.
-Louise Penny (A Better Man p 234)
It wasn’t years but choices that separated these two women.
-Louise Penny (A Better Man p 259)
As is often the case, there are some side plots concerning other characters in Three Pines. Social media plays a key role in the story, but this aspect it felt forced and a bit contrived. And artist Clara Morrow is experiencing something of a career crisis, although I confess I didn’t understand (or perhaps forgot?) what precipitated it and this storyline didn’t seem to go anywhere.
All the same, I found the book difficult to put down and will gladly keep reading this series.
If you've loved the other books in this series, you will not be disappointed. It's classic Louise Penny!