The Great Reckoning is the twelfth time I’ve been invited into Armand Gamache’s world, (not counting my rereads). Every time it has been an absolute treat. It’s very similar to is a well planned and eagerly anticipated reunion with a happy family group or good friends. These visits only happen once a year, but I find the anticipation and time spent so satisfying and enjoyable.
To begin with, there is almost always the same people present plus a few new friends (or enemies). In this visit I saw Armand and his wife Rene-Marie, their daughter Annie and her husband Jean Guy (one of my favorite friends). In their home in the peaceful village of Three Pines I still visited with Clara (artist), Myrna (bookstore owner), Olivier and Gabrie (bistro owners), and the rude old poet, Ruth Zardo. There was also a couple of Armand’s colleagues from the Sûreté du Québec Homicide division. New this year were some faculty and students, one of whom (Amelia) I hope will become a regular.
Three Pines was still the featured location of this visit but there was also an interesting new place – the Sûreté’s Academy for training new police officers. Armand has come out of retirement (we all knew he wouldn’t stay retired forever) to become the Commander of the Academy. I had a hunch this might be his new job a few years back when he noticed how corrupt many of the new graduates were. Armand has been given a chance to clean it up – both faculty and students. Unfortunately, the changes still leave some people unhappy. Tensions develop and soon there is a murder.
This murder is not easily solved. It requires technology and deep thinking to figure out the mystery. There’s also another mystery in the story, although not involving murder. A old map of Three Pines was discovered in the wall of the bistro. It is so mysterious and the curious residents try to figure it out. Armand offers the assistance of four of the Academy’s cadets. The two mysteries seem to come together when a copy of the map is found in the murder-victim’s bedside table.
This year’s visit was fun and interesting and complicated and emotional (both tears and laughter) and, I’m afraid to say, exhausting. I should not have tried to read it by staying up all night, but it was just so much fun to see these people again, plus everything that was happening was just captivating. The only way I could stop was by falling asleep. Regular readers of this series will not want to miss this one. I have only one minor compliant: Near the end I grew impatient with all the talk, the analysis of who could have committed the murder and why. That’s probably more a personal thing with just me, so don’t let it stop you.
If you have not read the Armand Gamache/Three Pines series, you really should. This is quality writing at it’s best. Everything – from the characters to the plot to the settings to the writting – is so well done that you won’t be disappointed. I would, however, recommend reading the series in order. The story, characters, etc. develop over time. If I had it to do over again, I’d read one book a month between now and next year when the 13th book comes out. Do that and then come back and thank me. You’re welcome.
For a complete list of the books in this series, on order, visit the author’s website: Louise Penny