There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to [email protected]
Map of Life
Armand Gamache has left behind his demons and lives a quiet life in the hidden village of Three Pines, outside Quebec, with his beloved wife Reine-Marie, when the urge to go back into the police force for a clean-up operation strikes. Louise Penny’s 12th Chief Inspector Gamache novel, A Great Reckoning, is a leisurely paced novel, but with enough violence and emotional tension to keep the reader hooked.
Gamache’s village is like something out of a dream, with a bunch of friends who look out for one another—including a crabby old woman, Ruth, a poet with a pet duck, whom they all treat with great affection. Gamache, had retired after a particularly bad shootout, that almost killed him, but he takes up the offer to head the police training academy, because he knows of rampant corruption and uncontrolled violence in the police force and believes the seed is sown early.
The McGuffin here is an old map that is hidden in the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, which piques Gamache’s curiosity. To get the hostile cadets of the final year busy, he gives them copies of the map and asks them to solve the mystery hidden in there. Among the cadets is a troubled young woman, Amelia Choquet (She is described thus: “The rings and studs, like bullets. A girl pierced and pieced together. Like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. Looking for a heart.”) a Chinese girl, a gay boy and a very aggressive cadet, who obviously has an axe to grind with Gamache
When Gamache starts working at the academy, he fires many of the bad teachers, but keeps on the most corrupt Serge Leduc, much to everyone’s surprise; and also brings back a senior, Michel Brébeuf, who had been involved in a major corruption scandal. Then, Leduc is killed in a very strange manner, and Gamache himself becomes a prime suspect. A copy of the map is found in the dead man’s bedside table, and adds to the mystery of how the killing was carried out with Leduc’s own revolver.
The investigation into the murder goes on, but what makes the book such an enjoyable read is the portrayal of life in Three Pines, so much so, that the warmth of wood fires and aroma of meals served seem to leap off the page. Then, you come across passages like this : “The flurries had stopped in the night, leaving just a thin layer barely covering the dead autumn leaves. It seemed a netherworld. Neither fall nor winter. The hills that surrounded the village and seemed to guard it from an often hostile world themselves looked hostile. Or, if not actually hostile, at least inhospitable. It was a forest of skeletons. Their branches, gray and bare, were raised as though begging for a mercy they knew would not be granted.” A Great Reckoning is a book to savour, not race through like any other crime thriller.
A Great Reckoning
By Louise Penny
Published by Minotaur/Hachette.