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Bookends: Penny outdoes Christie in this mystery January 17, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Penny outdoes Christie in this mystery

By Dan Davidson

May 8, 2016bury-your-dead-copy

– 735 words –

 

Bury Your Dead

By Louise Penny

Sphere

371 pages

$24.99

 

It’s very fitting that Louise Penny has won a number of Agatha Awards, but I think that, in this book, the sixth in her Chief Inspector Gamache series, she has outdone even Dame Christie in the complexity of her plotting.

Whether the detective was Marple or Poirot, there was always a multiplicity of possible suspects in a Christie mystery, and part of the fun was watching all the red herrings being eliminated, one by one. Never, however, did Christie use the next book in a series to undo the conclusions reached in the previous volume.

Be warned, you absolutely must read The Brutal Telling before you read Bury Your Dead. You really do need to understand all the thinking behind the solution in the earlier book to fully appreciate what happens in this one.

There are three mysteries weaving their way through this book. The first is the most confusing, because it happened in between the two novels, and because it is unravelled for us, little by little, in memory flashbacks, as the other tales are spun.

Both Chief Inspector Gamache and his chief lieutenant, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, have been dreadfully injured and are recovering from some serious wounds. Gamache is now wearing a beard to cover a facial scar. We see how they were hurt in a memory flashback, fairly early in the book, but we don’t know why or what that was all about until much later. Events in the present trigger memories of the past, and we just have to wait for them to happen.

Meanwhile, Gamache is spending some of his recovery time in Quebec City, attending the Winter Carnival, and pursuing a private, non-criminal bit of research which takes him to the English Literary and Historical Society Library. Thus it is that he happens to there when a murder is, quite literally, uncovered. The body of an eccentric historian is discovered, quite by accident, in a sub-basement, by workmen dealing with a faulty buried telephone line.

Augustin Renaud has spent decades trying to find the body of Samuel de Champlain, the man who might rightfully be called the Father of Quebec. Renaud has made a pest of himself digging beneath a number of old buildings over the years, and the library is his latest target. This makes all members of the library board potential suspects. Gamache is from Montreal and has no status here, but the local police are happy to have him consult as a visiting homicide expert.

Because of the misadventure that led to his injuries, Gamache has been doubting some of his recent conclusions, particularly those related to his last investigation in the village of Three Pines. The case had seemed solid, and there was no question that the man currently serving jail time for the murder had been involved with the victim in ways that were morally and legally wrong. Still, he wasn’t satisfied. There had always been always been the lingering question of why the body had been moved.

Given the more recent problem, Gamache was in a mood to second guess himself, so he dispatched Beauvoir to Three Pines. His task was to recuperate there, and to spend his time unofficially examining the clues and the people of that strangely deadly little town. He was to look at the case they had both worked before with an eye to seeing if it was possible that the man in jail actually didn’t commit the murder.

Given the mix of plots, there’s quite a lot to keep track of in this book: three mysteries, two different settings, and even a fair bit of historical research.

Bury Your Dead won Penny another Agatha Award in 2010, as well as the 2011 Anthony Award, the 2011 Macavity Award, the 2011 Arthur Ellis Award and the 2011 Nero Award. It was also a bestseller on the New York Times, London Times, and USA Today lists.

So far there are 11 books in this series. Penny has delivered an annual release since the first one in 2005 and keeps fans informed of her progress on her Facebook postings. All of her books have made the awards lists in Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom, and most have won at least one award.

 

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