In a way, it doesn’t help to be reading a series well after some of its books are published when it’s as highly sequential as the Inspector Gamache books are. I’ve also been regularly dipping in and out of novels in Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn series, and the serialization is much, much lighter, which means you can read them out of order. No such luck with Louise Penny, which was a downside here because I was pretty sure that Gamache’s new job, as the commander of a police academy, wasn’t going to stick. It’s just too restrictive a setting for a character who is supposed to constantly be investigating murders, and so a part of me just wanted to get through it and on to the next thing.
Not that Penny is unengaging here. A Great Reckoning is still a quick, compelling read, and with a WWI connection that was bound to be interesting in its own right. But you know you’re probably not going to see these cadet characters again soon, and you know Gamache won’t keep running the school, and it saps some of the energy/tension from the book, as does the fact that Gamache is still mopping up some of the corruption that he rooted out of the Sûreté du Québec in earlier novels, particularly Book 9. In some ways, the series has felt a bit like it is spinning its wheels since that novel and Gamache’s pseudo-retirement in Books 10 and 11. Hopefully, his elevation to the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté adds some needed focus to the next few. (Maybe? Maybe note? I’d understand if at this point the series also started running out of gas.)
Not at all a bad addition to the series, and Amelia Choquet, the most important of the temporary characters added in this installment, has a nice spiky energy to her at some moments.