There are but few Canadian mystery novels series. The most famous is the Three Pines / Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. Set in Quebec, the Inspector Gamache series is a whodunit style mystery novel. It is almost but not quite a cozy.

The sidebar of local colour revolves around Gamache’s home in the somewhat mysterious village of Three Pines, its many eccentrics, as well as references to Quebec culture and a sometimes flawed sense of the local language (i.e. the swear is spelled tabarnac not tabernac and it is Douleur not Doleur).

The Great Reckoning is an okay mystery novel by Louise Penny. It is a too long for its own good, a common thing in a Louise Penny mystery, and the solve of the murder is convoluted and not that satisfactory.

Chief Inspector Gamache left the Surete du Quebec after uncovering high level corruption. He is more or less happily retired in Three Pines. He is convinced to return to the Surete as head of its police academy. His idea is to effect change from within and from the first days of an agent’s life.

Gamache staffs the professorial team and includes two of the men who were part of the corruption he uncovered. The idea is to “keep your enemies closer”. He also chooses the cadets and makes an especially strange choice by admitting street waif Amelia Choquet.

Eventually there is a murder at the academy. This could or should have been the main story. Instead, Canadian mystery novelist Louise Penny chooses to lead The Great Reckoning with a treasure hunt. A hundred year old map was found within the walls of the local bistro. Chief Inspector Gamache orders four cadets, including the mysterious Amelia Choquet, to discover what the map leads to.

Too much time is spent on the cadets’ treasure hunt. If it was meant as a character building exercise, Louise Penny fails to reveal how the students have been changed by the quest. The reveal of the purpose of the map is banal and almost an afterthought. This solve is almost little more than a cute narrative trick. As a metaphor for finding something, it also fails.

A Great Reckoning is the twelfth Chief Inspector Gamache mystery by Louise Penny. Based on this one, I am willing to give Chief Inspector Gamache, Three Pines, and Louise Penny another go but will buy the next one in a used book shop so as not to invest too much in the series.

A Great Reckoning
An Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery
Louise Penny
Minotaur Books 2016
402 pages

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