Dare I hope that I will continue enjoying the later Gamache books much more than the early ones? This series has really been touch and go for me since the beginning, but I’ve enjoyed most of the later ones quite a bit. Glass Houses was no exception, even with a plot that’s ludicrous even by Louise Penny standards (in addition to the weapons of mass destruction from a few books ago, the town of Three Pines is now also [SPOILER] the #1 location on the Canadian/U.S. border to store and smuggle opioids. Okay!) Of course, if you didn’t suspend disbelief after the third or fourth murder in Three Pines, a town with a population of like 50, you’re probably not still reading these books.
The structure of Glass Houses is a little different than most of the Gamache books. It cuts back and forth between a murder in Three Pines and the subsequent investigation happening in the winter, and the trial for the accused murderer the following summer. As Gamache testifies at the trial, we learn more details about what happened. Very often, I hate this plot structure because I’m usually much more interested in one storyline than the other, and so I get annoyed when the author pulls me out of the story I like to take me back to the one I don’t care about. Glass Houses was a refreshing change in that I enjoyed and wanted to know more about both storylines, so I really enjoyed reading this and often had trouble putting it down to go to bed. While you don’t find out who the murder victim is until pretty far along in the book, and you don’t know who is actually on trial until almost the very end, this didn’t bother me–I was content to just coast along with the story.
In addition to the murder investigation, there’s also a larger plot tied into it that concerns–what else?–Gamache taking on a seemingly indestructible criminal force, this time the smuggling and selling of illegal opioids. This plot element truly beggars belief, and not just because of the spoiler mentioned above. But even with that, this was really one of my favorite Gamaches. This may not be a popular opinion, but I think one reason I liked it was because there’s a lot less of the villagers than normal, and they were more likable in the sections where they did show up–especially Ruth. Sometimes the only villagers I actually like are Armand and Reine-Marie, and they haven’t even lived there that long.
I tend to read one Gamache book a year, but I enjoyed this one and the one before it so much that I might pick up the pace a little.