A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15), by Louise Penny

Nine stars

After getting my hands on the latest Louise Penny novel, I could not wait to get started. This explosive series, set in rural Quebec, gives not only the feel of a wonderful mystery but also hones in on all things Canadian. After serving his suspension, Armand Gamache is back in his position as Chief Inspector within the Sûreté du Québec, though there is a whispered power struggle within Homicide. While many are worried about how it will resolve itself, Gamache wants only to work and agrees to investigate a query of a pregnant woman whose gone missing. When Gamache arrives, he meets the woman’s husband, a known abuser, who explains that he has no idea where his wife might be, but could not care less. Gamache gets a bad feeling about it all, but is equally distracted when Quebec’s spring thaw begins to cause issues. His community of Three Pines is set to flood, which could be devastating if the floodwaters don’t drop soon. With no signs of the pregnant Vivienne Godin, Gamache tries to determine if there may have been foul play, which is exacerbated when a body is discovered amongst some cracked ice close to a bridge. The receding waters reveal much, including a potential murder scene, with the perfect suspect who denies having anything to do with his wife’s death. Trying to connect the dots, Gamache turns to some of his fellow villagers, who use social media to coax out a slew of information. Will it be enough to convict a man who holds his wife in such low regard that she is only good as a punching bag? Additionally, the higher-ups within the Sûreté are keeping a close eye on Gamache, especially as old troubles have an uncanny way of resurfacing. Could the Chief Inspector’s return have been a set-up to bury him once and for all? A wonderful addition to this stellar series, sure to keep fans wanting more. Recommended to those who have loved Armand Gamache from the early Three Pines days, as well as readers who enjoy police procedurals with a Canadian flavour.

After a major binge of the series last summer, I was forced to wait like the rest of the Penny fans for this newest piece in the Gamache series. It was well worth the wait, though I know Penny has had some personal issues, which makes the publication of this piece even more exciting. Gamache remains on point, working through the blips that had him sidelined and trying to keep from letting the politics of the job get to him. Still eager to help, both within the Sûreté and towards his friends in the Eastern Townships, Gamache makes his mark in a variety of ways. Keen to solve crimes, he has little time for those who seek to circumvent justice or cut corners to get the answers they want. Other characters continue to evolve in the series, though the locals are more background than at the forefront of the case. There are a few new faces whose presence could become more regular, depending on how Penny chooses to advance the series. I am eager to see how this will all play out in the coming years. The story remains exciting and fresh, though there are some significant mentions of past events, which thicken the plot and the series development effectively. Penny has a wonderful handle on the series, even fifteen books in. She represents Canada and the genre so well, choosing interesting plot twists that keep the reader wondering. Established chapters and current events weave together a story that many readers will surely devour, as I did, leaving them begging for more. The need for patience is high by the time the book ends, but there is still so much to learn. Alas, it will likely be another year or so.

Kudos, Madam Penny, for dazzling your fans with another strong novel. Gamache is in good hands under your guidance.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons