After a great deal of self-exploration in the past novel, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is back in another police procedural penned by the fabulous Louise Penny. After a long career as an artist, Three Pines resident Clara Morrow has secured a solo exhibition of her work at a high-end gallery in Montreal. Many of the big names in the local and international art scene have flocked to see what is going on, including Gamache and his second in command, Jean Guy Beauvoir. Eager to see the reviews the following morning, Clara heads out to collect the newspaper, but comes face to face with a body in her garden; someone she knew well from her past. After summoning Gamache and the rest of the Homicide squad of the Sûreté du Québec, all eyes turn to the guests at an exclusive party after the gallery showing. Top of the list would have to be Clara, when it is revealed that the victim, Lillian Dyson, was best friends with the local artist until a falling out decades before. No one can be entirely sure how Lillian made it to the party, or how she might have gone unnoticed. Gamache begins digging into the victim’s background, seeking to discover her ties to both Clara and the art community. However, it is a piece of evidence found near the body that proves most useful in the investigation, taking things on a winding tour into a world that Gamache could not have expected. There, Gamache encounters those he knows, but admits this is a side to them he could not have fathomed. All the while, Inspector Beauvoir comes to his superior with an admission, tied to that bloody shootout months before and how he’s had an epiphany. This revelation could shock not only the Homicide squad, but Gamache to the core. With a killer out there, Gamache must try to focus, without letting Beuavoir’s news derail him at the most inopportune time. Penny does so well to pull the reader in with fresh ideas and new angles to murder, without letting things go stale or rogue. Recommended to series fans who have a great handle on the characters and writing style. At this point, I would strongly suggest new readers begin where the series began and progress accordingly.
Louise Penny has never rested on her laurels when writing novels in this series, as she seeks to find new and exciting ways to entertain her readers. She also has a wonderful way of not only coaxing out the changing seasons as a strong backdrop, but also hones the attention on a Three Pines resident and crafting a mystery around their life. Clara Morrow has never been a wallflower, though pushing the attention squarely on her works well in this novel, as the art world receives much of the attention throughout. From creation of art, distilling what works, and how reviews can make or break a budding artist, Penny pushes Clara to the centre of the spotlight and asks that she guide the reader through her own experiences. Morrow does well to explore her backstory as a young artist without getting too bogged down, though also showing how she and husband, Peter, have had to fight for recognition as individuals and a team. Gamache receives some wonderful attention here, though steps back to allow others their limelight. What is interesting is the ongoing exploration by the series protagonist to tap into who might be trying to bring him down—again—and how he can keep his Sûreté team in tact. Penny has Gamache wrestle with some personal issues throughout, though it does not distract from the story at any point, adding more flavour to the series progression, in my opinion. The handful of other characters continue to impress, adding some of their own nuances, including the somewhat stoic and statuesque Jean Guy Beauvoir. Series fans will likely enjoy what he brings to the table and how his revelations enrich an already complex character interaction. The story was well designed to provide the reader a look not only into the art world, but that of other areas where anonymity is crucial. Once the reader pushes through that barrier, they will discover something that Penny treats with much respect, though she injects humour at times, using Gamache as the test subject. With strong themes throughout and a narrative that keeps the story moving forward, Penny successfully tackles yet another mystery with much detail. I am pleased to have found this series and continue to feel pleased with my choice to binge through the novels until I am caught up with many who have been praising this collection for a long time.
Kudos, Madam Penny, for another stellar piece. I cannot believe I waited this long to join the other fans, but cannot say enough about these pieces.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons