”Here.” The boy handed Gamache the stick. “If anything bad happens to me, you’ll know what to do.” He looked at Gamache with deadly earnest. “I’m trusting you.”
Everyone is so used to nine-year old Laurent Lepage’s outlandish stories that when he finally tells the truth, that he’s found a giant gun with a monster (with wings) on it, in the woods, no one bats an eyelid. But someone believes and Laurent is found dead a couple days later in what initially looks like an accident but turns out to be murder. Who would kill a child? This has to be one of the most heart-wrenching questions ever, and the closer we got to the answer, the more unnerved I became.
The pacing was good, starting out slowly to set the groundwork, but taking off as soon as poor Laurent was found dead. The plot was great as usual, but somewhat ambitious, IMO – a child murder exposing events that took place about 30 years ago, even now with present and dire international repercussions, and yet, for the most part, contained in the small space of Three Pines, where much of the story takes place. So many monsters and so much darkness; it got a little claustrophobic at times. The identity of the murderer, if you do not allow yourself to be sidetracked by everything else that’s thrown out at you, isn’t hard to figure out. I was a little afraid, with all the diversions, Ms Penny would pull a jump-shark on me, so it was with relief I got safely, though not too shockingly, to the end.
There’s also a side story about a play written by a convicted serial murderer, and Gamache is adamantly against its production. This causes Reine-Marie to ask Clara a thought-provoking question: “You’re an artist,” said Reine-Marie. “Do you think a work should be judged by its creator? Or should it stand on its own?”, to which Clara responds: “I know the right answer to that. And I know how I feel. Would I want a painting by Jeffrey Dahmer, or to serve a meal from the Stalin family cookbook? No.”
The book incorporates details from at least one real life event and from the life and work of one real life person that I felt were well done. The details I found online about the event mentioned were horrifying, and they added to the overall dark feel of the story.
The usual characters are their usual great selves. Ruth is still rude and intrusive though we see new layers to her character in this one, things that explain more about the woman she is today. Clara seemed a bit off-color but that is to be expected from the events of the previous book; her artistic eye comes in handy in helping to expose another one of the book’s monsters - this one was a shocking twist. Lacoste is growing into her new role and Beauvoir is still maturing nicely (I’m liking him more and more). And we have a new protégé! Maybe it’s the distance of waiting some months for this book, compared to reading the previous 10 in about two weeks straight, but I found the character of Gamache a tad deified. While he’s quite humble himself, those around him, especially his former colleagues, have him firmly set on a pedestal. I don’t know how I feel about that. But I like how he’s starting to consider what next, as he’s had some time to heal. Many offers are coming in but Gamache is nothing if not deliberate, and Reine-Marie is taking it all in stride.
Overall, there’s a fantastical feel to the book, starting with Laurent and his absurd cry wolf stories, and the beasts and monsters uncovered by the investigation into his death. There was a lot of mask on, mask off going on from beginning to end. In all, I enjoyed this entry in the Armand Gamanche series and I’m eager for what’s next for Three Pines and its residents.
“Through the window he could see splashes of astonishing color in the forest that covered the mountains. The maple and oak and apple trees turning. Preparing. That was where the fall began. High up. And then it descended, until it reached them in the valley. The fall was, of course, inevitable. He could see it coming.”