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A Better Man, by Louise Penny.

November 4, 2019

A Better Man
A Better Man, by Louise Penny.  Minotaur Books, 2019.

4 stars

A new mystery by a favorite writer set in Canada and featuring Armand Gamache, the sometime head of the Montreal homicide department, and the tiny, isolated village of Three Pines.

Louise Penny was born in Canada in 1958 and graduated from Ryerson University.   She worked at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for 18 years before marrying and beginning her writing career.  A Better Man is the fifteenth book in her series about Gamache, his family and his friends.  To say that she has a new book published is enough for her regular readers to rush out to buy it

Armand Gamache is the central figure in Penny’s series and sets the tone for them.  As part of the police department in Montreal and the surrounding area, he is anything but a stereotypical police officer.  He is a brave, sensitive, and wise man, always aware that everyone has both good and bad within, or as he says  the “malice and truth.”   He is a deeply moral man, never legalistic, but aware of the ambiguity of life and the risks we all face.   Perhaps the attraction of the Gamache  novels is the way in which they probe deeply into the characters at the same time they provide puzzles and dangers.

Other people and places also regularly appear in the series.  Gamache’s family and their shifting relations ground him outside his detective duties.  So does Three Pines, the idyllic village just outside Montreal, yet a world away, perhaps like the village where Penny lives.  The village is small but has a cluster of eccentric residents, all of them willing to tolerate each other.  Gamache and his wife have a home there as well as in Montrell. The village offers readers a refuge just as it does the book’s charcters.

In A Better Man,  Gamache has given his superior an excuse to humiliate and demote him.  He must share his directorship of homicide with his son-in-law.  Their joint search for a missing woman is complicated by a massive flood sweeping through the region.  Nothing is as it seems, and the case stalls, but creative thinking by Gamache and his team figure out who is guilty.

I strongly recommend A Better Man to a wide range of readers, including those who usually dislike mysteries. Although the Gamache books are part of a series, each can be enjoyed alone.

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