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Summary and book reviews of A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning

A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, #12

by Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny X
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
  • Critics' Opinion:

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2017, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2016 BookBrowse Fiction Award

Bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel.

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

CHAPTER 1

Armand Gamache sat in the little room and closed the dossier with care, squeezing it shut, trapping the words inside.

It was a thin file. Just a few pages. Like all the rest surrounding him on the old wooden floor of his study. And yet, not like all the rest.

He looked at the slender lives lying at his feet. Waiting for his decision on their fate.

He'd been at this for a while now. Reviewing the dossiers. Taking note of the tiny dots on the upper-right corner of the tabs. Red for rejected. Green for accepted.

He had not put those dots there. His predecessor had.

Armand placed the file on the floor and leaned forward in his comfortable armchair, his elbows on his knees. His large hands together, fingers intertwined. He felt like a passenger on a transcontinental flight, staring down at fields below him. Some fertile, some fallow and ripe with potential. And some barren. The topsoil masking the rock beneath.

But which was which?

He'd read, and considered, and tried to drill...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. "The worst was coming. But so was the best. The snow angels were coming," Gamache reflects in the first chapter. Aside from evoking the chill of November, what expectations do these lines raise about the story to come?
  2. What do you think of Gamache's decision to invite Brébeuf to teach at the academy? What does the invitation, and Brébeuf's acceptance of it, say about the two men?
  3. In what ways is the map significant to Gamache, the villagers, and the various cadets? What significance does it have for you?
  4. How do you feel about the character of Amelia? Did you see the final words in the book coming, and did they change your view of Gamache or Amelia in any way?
  5. What are the most important things Gamache teaches...
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    BookBrowse Awards
    2016

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The author's emphasis on quality writing and character development necessitates more setup on the front end of the narrative. The action doesn't get rolling until perhaps a third of the way in. These sections are so well written that the book never drags – I advise readers to set aside uninterrupted time to read the last 50 pages, as they likely wouldn't want to be disturbed as the book speeds to its conclusion...continued

Full Review (757 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Seattle Times
Luminous prose, complex but uncluttered plots, and profound compassion.

Booklist
Starred Review. Gamache fans will be thrilled by the way this installment unlocks some of the series' enduring questions: Why is Three Pines off the grid? Why do we know so little about Gamache's past? At the same time, the main plot offers a compelling mystery and a rich human drama.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This complex novel deals with universal themes of compassion, weakness in the face of temptation, forgiveness, and the danger of falling into despair and cynicism over apparently insurmountable evils.

Library Journal
Starred Review. This riveting read, with characters of incredible depth who only add to the strength of the plot, will keep readers guessing until the last page. For series fans and those who enjoy the small-town mysteries of Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A chilling story that's also filled with hope.

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Beyond the Book

A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General

Louise Penny often includes poetry in her books, and A Great Reckoning is no exception. Throughout the novel, A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General by Jonathan Swift is quoted.

His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he's gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He'd wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old
As by the newspapers we're told?
Threescore, I think, is pretty high;
'Twas time in conscience he should die
This world he cumbered long enough;
He burnt his candle to the snuff;
And that's the reason, some folks ...

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