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

Eight stars

A necessary re-read, now that I have completed the first six novels in Louise Penny’s stunning series. While I used this short story to test the waters, now that I have proper context, I chose to return and properly review the piece. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is back in Three Pines, bringing along with his the Homicide squad of the Sûreté du Québec (or ‘Quebec Provincial Police’, the first time Penny has anglicised the force) to investigate a man 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 the local bed and breakfast, formerly the Hadley House. 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. With nothing really spoiler-related within this piece, I suppose it could be enjoyed as a standalone, as I did the first time around. 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. Penny provides the reader with some interesting exploration of Chief Inspector Gamache, though nothing new for the series reader. 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 provides an interesting sampling of some other members of the Homicide team, though nothing sensational comes from the pages of this piece. 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, it is time to return to slower and more thorough plots in full-length novels. With a new novel set to come out later this autumn, I have no time to wait. Back to the binge!

Kudos, Madam Penny, for reminding me how a masterful storyteller hones her craft!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/…

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