Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is pushed toward retirement.
It’s a great relief for Inspector Gamache to get out of the office and head for Three Pines to help therapist-turned-bookseller Myrna find out why her friend Constance Pineault didn’t turn up for Christmas. Except for Isabelle Lacoste, Gamache’s staff has been gutted by Chief Superintendent Francoeur. Gamache’s decisions have been mostly ignored and bets placed on how soon he’ll admit redundancy and retire. Even worse, a recent tragedy (The Beautiful Mystery, 2012, etc.) has led his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, to transfer out of Gamache’s department, fall sway to prescription drugs and hold his former boss in contempt. En route to Three Pines, Gamache happens upon a fatality at the Champlain Bridge and agrees to handle the details. But this case takes a back seat to the disappearance of Constance when she turns up dead in her home. Myrna confides Constance’s secret: As the last surviving Ouellet quintuplet, she’d spent her adult years craving privacy after the national publicity surrounding the birth of the five sisters had turned them into daily newspaper fodder. Why would anyone want to murder this reclusive woman of 79? The answer is developed through clues worthy of Agatha Christie that Gamache interprets while dealing with the dismemberment of his homicide department by Francoeur, who’s been plotting a major insult to Canadian government for 30 years. Matters come to a head when Gamache and the one Sûreté chief still loyal to him and her husband, a computer whiz, are tracked to Three Pines, where Beauvoir awaits, gun in hand.
Of the three intertwined plots, the Francoeur scheme is the deadliest, and the Ouellet saga will remind readers of the real-life Dionne family debacle of the 1940s. But it’s Three Pines, with its quirky tenants, resident duck and luminous insights into trust and friendship, that will hook readers and keep them hooked.