I finished reading this several days ago and the more time that I’ve had to ponder the book, the more I’ve enjoyed it. Penny creates a lovable but morally questionable character in Inspector Armand Gamache and I thoroughly loved him and the rest of the crazy cast of characters. However, one mistake that I made with this novel was thinking that it was a stand-alone. I asked for it for Christmas and finally got around to it while sheltering at home and quickly realized that it was the third of a trilogy…..big oof. Despite it being the third book, Penny took care to introduce the entire cast of characters once again for the errant reader such as myself, who have stumbled upon her series a little late.
Penny creates quite a story and it gets a little difficult to keep track of all the action at certain points. The novel follows Gamache on a tale of two storylines, one where he is called upon to be the executor of the will of a mystery woman known as the Baroness, and the other where Gamache seeks redemption for his drug bust gone terribly wrong. To me, the drug bust storyline was the more interesting part of the novel especially as it featured a young woman, written in the style of Lisbeth Salander of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, in the title role. As someone who is also learning French, I found the little Quebecois phrases and quirks inserted into the book to be especially endearing. I also found a favorite character in Ruth, the grizzled and extremely boozy poet laureate of Three Pines. Ruth’s poetry was also woven throughout the novel in a very nice touch. I would recommend this book but I would definitely advise the reader to start with the first two novels in the series, “A Great Reckoning” and “Glass Houses”.