Reviewed by Jim Napier
Just in time for Christmas, a new novel by Louise Penny for her many fans.
Winter has come to Three Pines, and Armande Gamache finds himself driving along a snow-packed secondary road toward an abandoned farmhouse. He’s been summoned by a cryptic note to a meeting with a man he does not know.
When he arrives Gamache finds two other people have received similar missives. One is Myrna Landers, bookstore owner from the village of Three Pines; the other is a stranger. Benedict Pouliot is a young builder who has travelled from Montreal. They soon learn that they have been jointly named as liquidators of the estate of the late Bertha Baumgartner. But intriguingly, none of them recalls ever knowing her.
Their host is Maître Lucien Mercier, a notary, and son of the man who drafted the terms of the woman’s will. They consider declining the duty, but there is a modest stipend for their work, and as Pouliot says, “What the hell? How bad can it be?”
He’s about to find out. The winter storm they each fought through to get to the meeting has intensified, nearly blocking their efforts to leave the farmhouse, and the maelstrom becomes a metaphor for the turbulent events that will soon engulf them all. Bertha Baumgartner, who in life called herself the Countess, was in fact a cleaning lady, which didn’t stop her from bequeathing to her legatees an estate of nearly twenty million dollars she apparently didn’t have. Was she simply bonkers, or is there more to her tale?
Gamache has other matters on his plate as well. The previous summer a major drugs raid under his direction had met with mixed success. Although the Sûreté had captured the miscreants and seized a large quantity of drugs, a large cache of very dangerous opioids had disappeared. When they hit the streets of Montreal, as they surely will, they will unleash havoc. As a result, the Chief Superintendent has been suspended pending a review of his handling of the affair. Gamache’s son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir is becoming convinced that the inquiry team is looking for a scapegoat, and has Armande Gamache firmly in its sights.
The usual suspects are front and present, of course; one cannot imagine a Gamache novel without them: Reine-Marie, Clara Morrow, Gabri Dubeau and his partner Olivier, Ruth Zardo, Jean-Guy Beaulieu, and Isabelle Lacoste. There are as well the many succulent delights that are a trademark of Louise Penny’s novels. Nor has Penny lost her gift for creating an ominous brooding narrative, and foreshadowing that both takes her readers aback and compels them to press on with the tale.
With each of her novels Louise Penny continues to grow as a writer.
Kingdom of the Blind is a layered, textured tale that stretches far beyond the confines of Three Pines, and extends well back in time as well. And as it looks forward, it marks out new territory for Armand Gamache and his family. Yet despite all the changes in his life, and the setbacks that seem to put a finish to his career, we are left with the feeling that many more chapters remain in the journey of this formidable man.
Kingdom of the Blind is published by Minotaur Books.
Jim Napier’s book reviews and author interviews have been featured in several Canadian newspapers as well as on various websites including his own award-winning site, http://deadlydiversions.com/ In 2017 he published his own crime novel, LEGACY, and the second in the series, RIDLEY’S WAR, is due to be published in the Spring of 2019. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org