After reading The Long Way Home last year and The Nature of the Beast earlier this year I still wasn’t sure what Louise Penny had remaining up her sleeve for the residents of Three Pines and the remaining members of the Sûreté, but I knew not to worry about it anymore. While those books were heading towards a new direction, this book finally takes sure steps into the new reality these characters are facing. The Nature of the Beast accepted the new status quo, this book relishes in it. Isabelle Lacoste has settled into her role of Chief Inspector, Jean Guy Beauvoir is coming into his own as husband, soon to be father, and recovering addict. But perhaps most importantly Armand Gamache has decided what his next steps professionally will be, as his retirement was not permanent.
A Great Reckoning lives up to its name – Gamache is directly reckoning with several different elements of his past both within and without the Sûreté. What really worked for me in this book was the emotionally powerful narrative threads Penny wove together. In her Author’s Note Penny thanked those who have supported her and her husband while they deal with his dementia. It is clear on the page how her emotional work in her personal life is reflected in the emotional work of her characters, once you know its there. The final denouement of the activities in the Academy faintly pulled at my credulity, but the mental abuse and prolonged damage it was meant to convey landed fine. I’ll be happily picking up the thirteenth book in this series early next year and remain confident in what Penny is exploring.