I’m officially hooked on this series. With the exception of books two and three, which I thought were dips in quality, this series just keeps getting better.
Part of my enjoyment comes from this being essentially now a serialized story. The first four you could pick up out of order and still get everything out of them that Penny wanted you to. But this one almost entirely depends, narratively and emotionally, on the previous five books, but mostly the fifth.
Spoilers for previous books to follow.
We ended the last book with Olivier being arrested for the murder of the hermit. His partner, Gabri, writes Gamache every day asking him the same question: “Why would Olivier move the body? It doesn’t make any sense.” And Gamache is beginning to agree. I’ve read a lot of murder mysteries, and I might have read one like this before, but I think not. I had pretty much guessed Olivier was innocent at the end of last book, but it’s refreshing to have the case gone over again here, instead of having a fresh mystery to solve. Gamache is a good man, but even he can get things wrong.
The other mysterious threads running through the book have to do with Gamache’s whereabouts. In the six months between the last book and this one, something terrible happened to Gamache and his team of agents. He and Beauvoir are both recovering from something extremely traumatic, the story of which is doled out in pieces over the course of the narrative. This traumatic event is on both of their minds, as Beauvoir reinvestigates Olivier’s case in Three Pines, and Gamache is pulled into the murder of a man found in the basement of the Literary & Historical Society in Quebec City, even though he was there only to visit his old mentor Emil, and to continue his recovery.
One of the things I like more and more about this series, along with Penny’s deep dive into character, is how Canadian it is. They story is steeped in Canadian culture and history, and central to this one is the conflict between Anglophone and Francophone residents of Quebec. The murdered man was an infamous Francophone who spent his life crusading around the city searching for the lost body of city founder, Samuel de Champlain. He made a lot of enemies, and was considered a laughingstock to many. But now that he has been found in that basement, one of the many remaining strongholds of English culture in the city, everyone involved fears escalating tensions as a result.
I’m so glad I didn’t give up on this series, and I’m honestly kind of frightened about what other fresh hell she’s going to put these characters through next. As long as it doesn’t get to be too much for my poor emotions, I’m very much looking forward to it.