Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

First Sentence:  Armand Gamache sat in the little room and closed the dossier with care, squeezing it shut, trapping the words inside.
No longer the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Quebec, Armand Gamache has finally decided on his next position, and the people with whom he wants to work.  It's a position where he feels he can made a difference and a correction to something gone very wrong.  When one person dies, the situation becomes even more dire then simply uncovering the facts behind the crime.  Yet even before beginning, the ladies of Three Pines investigate the contents of a chest; document found in the walls of the bistro during renovation.  Among them is a most unusual map with all roads leading to Three Pines, a town which doesn’t exist on any official maps.  Can this map lead everyone to their own sense of home, including Gamache?
Penny is a remarkable visual writer—“The curtains of his study fluttered and he could feel a cold draft coming in through the slightly open window.  And he knew if he draw back the curtains and turned on the  porch light, he would see the first snow of the season swirling in the light.  Falling softly and landing on the roofs of the homes in this tiny village of Three Pines.”  She doesn’t just tell you, she brings you into the story and allows you to see alongside her characters.  
Penny enables you to see her characters as well—“It was a care-worn face.  But most of the lines, if followed back like a trail, would lead to happiness.  To the face a face made when laughing or smiling, or sitting quietly enjoying the day.  Though some of those lines led elsewhere.  Into a wilderness, into the wild.   Where terrible things had happened.  Some of the lines of his face led to evens inhuman and abominable.  To horrific sights.  To unspeakable acts.  Some of them his.”  It's that descriptiveness that truly brings everything to life.
Her characters, particularly Gamache, surprise you, but they are real, flesh and blood, and nuanced.  The circle of friends in Three Pines, are those among whom you want to be, even the irascible Ruth.  Their friendship is loyal, strong and insightful.  The wonderful meals they share are a part of that bond—“They’d gathered at Clara’s place this wintery night for a dinner of bouillabaisse, with fresh baguette from Sarah’s boulangerie.  Clara and Gabri were in the kitchen just putting the final ingredients into the broth….A delicate aroma of garlic and fennel drifted into the living room and mingled with the scent of wood smoke from the hearth.”  Penny's dialogue is as real as her characters, particularly those scenes involving Ruth.  She makes you smile, but she makes you think.
Penny is an author with a beautifully lyrical style who causes you to pause and consider; to see things, and people, in a new way, sometimes through the scene, and sometimes through literary references—“Don’t believe everything you think.”  The dialogue is realistic, and occasionally humorous—“Through the kitchen window, they saw Commander Gamache supporting Ruth, Keeping her upright on the icy road….”Alzheimer’s?” asked Huifen. “Reine-Marie shook her head. “Poetry.””  She is an author whose work one finds oneself re-reading as in the end, her stories are about love, trust, and redemption.  
A Great Reckoning” is a wonderful story that touches all the emotions.  The plot that is layered and puzzled; not in a way which is difficult to follow, but in a way such that one can’t help but admire the thinking that created it.  As with life, there are numerous situations and threads, involving different characters in different ways, yet all roads lead us back to Three Pines.  

A GREAT RECKONING (Pol Proc-Armand Gamache-Canada-Contemp) – Ex
     Penny, Louise – 12th in series
     Minotaur Books – Aug 2016

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