“What would you do if … ? How would you feel if … ?” These questions haunt Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in Louise Penny’s “A Better Man.”
As always, I couldn’t wait to revisit the village of Three Pines in Quebec to see what was going on in the lives of the characters so many have come to love throughout this series.
And there is quite a bit going on. Catastrophic spring flooding is threatening most of Quebec, including Three Pines. Gamache is returning to work with the Surete de Quebec, but is no longer the head of the organization because of questions about his handling of his last major case, one involving drug smuggling. He has accepted the offer to return to his previous position as head of the homicide division. Actually, he is temporarily sharing the post with his son-in-law, Jean–Guy Beauvoir, who’s preparing to move with his wife and child to Paris.
Reaction to Gamache’s return is mixed—most of his peers and bosses are happy to see him, but he is being viciously attacked on social media and by the press. While the authorities struggle to come up with a cohesive plan to curb the flooding and save their cities and citizens, Gamache’s attention is split when he is approached by a co-worker who asks him to help find a missing woman. Her father is frantic to find her, believing her abusive husband responsible, and is difficult to reason with.
The Three Pine mysteries are among the finest I’ve ever read. Penny’s writing is masterful, weaving a tight plot with moral dilemmas and characters who are facing life-changing decisions, learning to accept criticism and struggling to be better people. And there is always a wonderful twist near the end. Three Pines may be a charming village, but the goings-on there make for riveting reading. The Bistro is a wonderful gathering place, but this is no cozy mystery.
As the chaos grows and the crises mount, Gamache and his son-in-law face many difficulties, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not, always striving to stay steady in times of chaos. But Beauvoir need look no further, for he will never find a mentor who is “A Better Man.”