In Inspector Gamache’s 11th outing, the sheltering forest around his small village of Three Pines is revealed to be a hiding place for unexpected evil.
Armand Gamache, former head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is learning to let go and be happy with his new life in Three Pines, far from the evil that ate away at him for years. His former colleagues and friends poke fun at him, saying the great inspector will never truly hang up his hat, but these jokes turn deadly serious when an imaginative 9-year-old boy named Laurent is murdered shortly after telling what seemed to be a tall tale about a massive gun wielded by a monster in the woods. When it’s discovered that the boy was not exaggerating even in the slightest, Gamache’s mind quickly switches back to questioning his surroundings and the people who inhabit this space—many of them his close friends. Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste and her right hand, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, take up residence in Three Pines, and with Gamache’s sideline help, they begin to find out what sort of darkness lurks just outside of town. Penny uses her well-known, idyllic setting as the center point of a mystery with global scope and consequences, spanning decades and implicating many, including series veterans. What makes this story most magical, though, is how the many aspects of this spiraling tale can be connected by a Bible verse and related lines from a Yeats poem: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” It’s with this eye for detail that Penny sketches the “nature of the beast”—evil that has the potential to grow even in the most unexpected places. An especially terrifying character returning from Gamache’s past is the perfect reminder of the dark side of human nature, but that side does not always win out.
Penny is an expert at pulling away the surface of her characters to expose their deeper—and often ugly—layers, always doing so with a direct but compassionate hand.