[***Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Suicide by Jumping, Drug Addiction***]
I don’t recall when I started reading the Inspector Gamache mysteries ~ although Amazon says that I purchased the first one three years ago, and a month later had finished four. Number 13 arrived last week-end, and a couple of days ago I re-read the last 100 pages, much more slowly and deliberately than I had a few nights earlier. (Louise Penny is a master as describing intense encounters between criminals and their pursuers, and I had flown through the ending the first time around.)
At first, I didn’t care for this book. Louise Penny frequently makes use of sentence fragments in her writing, but in this novel she has reached a new extreme. I was frequently distracted by the short, broken phrases, and wondered whether they reflected the sad and harsh reality of her own life. Her beloved husband had died of Alzheimer’s during the writing, something she had discussed in her online newsletter and reflects upon at the end of the book. But as I continued to read, the sentence structure seemed to become one with the broken world of the Surete’, the court system, and the drug trade whose stories coalesce into this one.
I don’t want to give anything away to either longtime Gamache fans or newbies, so I will make only two points. First, the plot line does indeed center on the opiate trade, and thus address a contemporary crisis. It does so in broad strokes, in the exploration of new characters, and in details of the lives of old favorites. It is possible that, if you have had to deal with drug addiction in your own circles, this book might prove a difficult read.
Second, like nearly everyone else, I want to extol the character development at which Louise Penny is so brilliant. I have started re-reading the first novel in anticipation of a book club discussion and, while I had forgotten many things, I knew that in Glass Houses I was reading about people who have grown and gained in strength and dignity over a period of several years.
As an aside, many of the books focus on the traumas and tragedies experienced by one or two characters other than Monsieur and Madame Gamache. In this one, Ruth Zardo, perhaps my least favorite of the Three Pines residents, comes to the fore for a bit, and I fell in love with her. As is so often the case, it’s the ones who most irritate us who turn out to be most like us in past trauma and lifetime response. The woman prays for Satan ~ how wonderful is that?
Finally, it is an added pleasure to read these mysteries just after having spent time in Quebec. (I re-read two others, out of any order, while we were traveling.) Every time we came across a Surete’ du Quebec sign, I nearly jumper with joy, anticipating that I would encounter Chief Inspector Gamache at the next stop!