The book opens as the current pandemic is winding down. People are coming together again, happy to be out of quarantine but still wary and wounded by loss. The villagers of Penny’s Three Pines, her beloved fictional setting in Quebec, are enjoying the snow and looking forward to the upcoming holidays. The last months have been difficult, and the extended family of Armand Gamache, the often-profound chief inspector of the Canadian Sûreté, is finally back together. But unexpectedly, le patron, as he is called by his second in command and son-in-law Jean Guy, is asked to provide security for Abigail Robinson, a visiting professor who is speaking at a nearby university.
Gamache can’t imagine why she would need protection, but as he soon learns, her message is both odious and divisive. In fact, her theories, which evolved throughout the COVID-19 crisis, propose that drastic steps be taken to protect the healthy at the expense of the most vulnerable. Robinson’s position repels many, but, horrifyingly, galvanizes others; and, in the ensuing turmoil of her talk, there is an attempt to silence her.
Now Gamache and his team must determine who is responsible for the attack. While they are investigating and observing, another person is killed, adding to the mystery. As in all of Penny’s books, discovering the motive of the killer is what leads to solving the crime, but again, it is certainly not clear why there was a killing. Many red herrings offer plausible explanations, and it’s up to Gamache to weed through them before someone else is murdered.
Not only is the book absorbing, but it is also quite relevant. Penny has created a situation where issues are clouded by misinterpreted information that appeals to a certain questionable group of citizens. The idea that a person can offer a solution based on wild and unfounded claims is, unfortunately, quite timely.
Throughout her books, Penny’s overriding theme is “goodness exists,” but for most of this cunning novel, you may wonder how these words can possibly be reflected in the story. But once again, the author devises a believable and powerful dénouement, one that proves to be most satisfying.
We may have to wait until August 2022 for the next Gamache installment, but Penny’s new collaboration with Hillary Clinton, a political thriller named “State of Terror” that debuted October 12, affords readers another appointment with the revered Canadian writer. Watch for a review of it in next month’s Mountain Mirror.
A Bounty of New Books Awaits
A flood of destined-to-be-popular books has been released recently by prominent publishers. Many of these were delayed by the pandemic, but November and December will be awash with great reads. Here are brief reviews of some of these. For more, come by the Library and look for the bright orange and yellow new stickers marking our latest acquisitions.
“Alpha: Eddie Gallagher and the War for the Soul of the Navy SEALS” by Pulitzer winner David Phillips is an account of the court-martial of the man who was a platoon chief in the Iraq war and who, according to the author’s extensive investigation, abused his power. Though he was pardoned by Trump (via Twitter, no less), the facts revealed in the trial exposed a disturbed and dangerous man, and this book has been hailed as sad, shocking and “deeply damning.”
“Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn from 75 Years of Letters and Conversations with Kids” by Christine French Cully and Amy Dickinson is a compilation of some of the most compelling and heart-tugging posts that children have sent to the magazine. Reproduced here in the children’s own handwriting, some also illustrated by their senders, the letters ask powerful questions, relate experiences that are challenging, and express joy as well as sorrow. Even if it’s been a long time since you read Highlights, you will find many passages that offer poignant insights.
“Sidecountry: Tales of Death and Life from the Back Roads of Sports” by Pulitzer winner John Branch collects the best of the author’s pieces from The New York Times. Branch doesn’t limit his writing to conventional team sports. He covers subjects such as alligator hunting, rock climbing, and wingsuit flying. But he also focuses on uplifting situations and players who would not have ever been recognized if it were not for his interest in them. You definitely don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy this book.
“Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty” by Anderson Cooper is the journalist’s exposition of his own family, the illustrious and legendary Vanderbilts, whose rise to fame and fortune began with Cornelius, The Commodore, Cooper’s great-great-great grandfather. The book looks at the family through a series of essays on family members, concluding with the tragic story of his mother, Gloria, who died in 2019. Publishers’ Weekly calls it “a memorable chronicle of American royalty.”
We have also added some fun books aimed at grade levels three through seven called “The Last Kids on Earth.” We have seven volumes of this series starring zombie-fighting kids who form a team to combat the monster apocalypse. Both text and illustrations relate these stories that will appeal to most middle schoolers.
Also new are three editions in the “I Survived” series: “I Survived the Attack of the Grizzlies;” “I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944;” and “I Survived the California Wildfires, 2018.” These books tell the thrilling stories of actual events and feature capable and brave young people who have experienced them. They are written for ages 7 through 10.
Nominated for National Book Award
Finalists for the 2021 National Book Awards were announced last month. On November 17, the winners will be revealed at the 72nd National Book Awards Ceremony. Of the nominees, we have the following available for checkout: “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr; “Matrix” by Lauren Groff; “Zorrie” by Laird Hunt; “The Prophets” by Robert Jones; “Hell of a Book” by Jason Mott; “All That She Carried” by Tiya Miles; and “Too Bright to See” by Kyle Lukoff.
by Karin Glendenning