The Hangman (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6.5), by Louise Penny

Eight stars

After a strong recommendation from a friend, I decided that I would soon embark Louise Penny’s series involving Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Before taking on the large commitment, I felt it key to test the waters with the only short story in the series, which appears in the middle of the collection. Hoping that I could enjoy the piece without having read the previous six novels, I sought to get a feel for things and Penny’s writing style, allowing me to make more of a confident decision before a reading binge. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the head of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec (or ‘Quebec Provincial Police’, as Penny terms it for her readers) and has been called to Three Pines, a small Quebec community, where a man has been found hanging by a tree. The jogger who found him has been quite distant and uncooperative, leaving Gamache to wonder if he might be involved. After discovering the victim’s name, Arthur Ellis, the team finds that he’s been staying at a local bed and breakfast. Ellis left a fairly clear suicide note in his room, though Gamache is not entirely sold that this was how the act played out. While engaging with some of the locals, Gamache realises that the victim may have additional secrets that are only now coming to the surface. When the medical examiner notices odd ligature marks not attributable to a rope, it becomes apparent that there is a killer in Three Pines, but what motive might they have. Additionally, how could Ellis, a visitor himself, have pushed someone to kill him in such a public manner? Penny pulls the reader in with this stunning short story, easily finished in a single sitting. I will definitely be exploring the entire series and am sure that those who have done so already will enjoy this piece. Fans of police procedurals and Canadian mysteries will also find something worthwhile.

I am happy to have found yet another Canadian author whose work falls within one of the genres I enjoy so much. Set in rural Quebec, the series is sure to have a lovely Canadian flavour, something that will enrich the reading experience and have it stand out in the genre. With this short introduction to Gamache, Penny provides the reader with some interesting hints at a backstory that will likely develop more thoroughly as I delve deeper into the series. Gamache has a curious way about him, highly intelligent but also down to earth as he investigates the crime before him. He does not come across as condescending, but also gets to the root of the matter in short order and does not appear to suffer fools. Penny’s descriptive nature has me highly interested in learning much more about the entire homicide team, all of whom will surely play important roles as the full series develops. The story moves quickly, as it must with its brevity, and the reader must follow the movements of both the characters and the plot. Penny keeps the reader in the middle of the investigation, dropping hints throughout as she pushes towards the reveal, which ties the entire experience together. With this ‘short case’ done, I wonder how Penny handles a slower and more thorough plot as full-length novels will require. With a new novel set to come out later this autumn, I will have to binge soon to catch up in time to enjoy the latest release alongside series fans. I cannot wait!

Kudos, Madam Penny, for intriguing me greatly. I am ready to take the challenge and will shuffle a few things around in the coming month to get started soon.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: