This is the most recent in a series of 14 books featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Gamache is on suspension and facing a career-ending enquiry because he allowed a lethal new drug onto the streets in an effort to track the suppliers; his nightmare is not the loss of his career but the fact that he has no idea where the drug is being handled and when it will hit the streets. All this is the dark background to another story that’s intriguing rather than scary. Out of the blue Armand and two others are summoned to a tumbledown farmhouse where a lawyer tells them they’ve been named as executors of the will of a woman they never knew. What’s more, she’s left millions that she doesn’t seem to have. While they’re trying to get their heads around this there’s a murder.
Because of Gamache’s gentle nature and his happy family life, there’s a cosiness to the story in spite of the bleak places Louise Penny takes us to in the lives of desperate drug-users, prostitutes and the human vermin that profit from them. You always do have the comforting feeling that right will win and that human beings are on the whole decent. The cast of quirky characters in Gamache’s home village of Three Pines who reappear in book after book bolsters that feeling. They’re bonded in a community that has room for everyone’s quirks and needs. Louise Penny’s a skilled, effective storyteller, Gamache is a sympatico character, and snowbound Three Pines is a memorable setting. No wonder she’s a New York Times bestseller and recipient of countless awards for crime fiction.