Friday, November 24, 2017


GLASS HOUSE by Louise Penny (Sphere, 2017)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

One cold November day, a mysterious figure appears on the village green in Three Pines, causing unease, alarm and confusion among everyone who sees it. Chief Superintendent, Armand Gamache knows something is seriously wrong, but all he can do is watch and wait, hoping his worst fears are not realised. But when the figure disappears and a dead body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to investigate.

In the early days of the murder inquiry, and months later, as the trial for the accused begins, Gamache must face the consequences of his decisions, and his actions, from which there is no going back ...

Louise Penny is Canadian crime writing royalty, who has delighted fans around the globe the past decade plus with her outstanding series starring Quebec policeman Armand Gamache. Since entering the CWA Debut Dagger competition for unpublished crime writers back in the early 2000s with the book that would become her debut Still Life, Penny has not only broken through to publication, but racked up several mantelpieces full of awards, topped the New York Times bestseller list, and seen her creation come to life in a Canadian television adaptation. She's a beacon for budding crime writers everywhere.

At Bouchercon last month, Penny swept the major crime writing awards (Shamus, Macavity and Agatha) given out that weekend, for the 12th book in her Gamache series, A Great Reckoning.

In the next and latest instalment in the popular series, Glass Houses, Gamache has been elevated to the position of Chief Superintendent of the Surete du Quebec; in effect the most powerful police figure in the entire province. However, with great power comes great responsibility...

Over the past few months, Gamache has been having thoughts about radical ways to deal with the influx of crime in Quebec, particularly the unceasing flow of dangerous drugs that floods through the historic trading and smuggling routes prevalent throughout Quebec and downriver into the States.

Meanwhile a sinister cloaked figure appears in the sleepy village of Three Pines, where Gamache lives. It stands silently on the village green, ominous yet unmoving. Is it a messenger, a symbol? Tensions rise, emotions fracture among the villagers, who want Gamache to do something. Then somebody is killed. Just what is going on in? Who brought the cloaked figure to town, and why?

Penny delivers a delicious tale that blends the classic village murder mystery with a very modern tale threaded strongly with broader philosophical, psychological and social issues. Glass Houses is pleasantly quaint in tone at times, when it comes to the unique characters and interlocking relationships within the small village of Three Pines, but then also deals with some very dark issues: drug smuggling, violent crime, giant cross-border criminal enterprises operating with impunity.

Can Gamache do anything to stop the seemingly endless flow of drugs into and through Quebec, or is he leading an outpost that's fully surrounded and just waiting to be overrun? With his entire province under pressure, can he even solve a murder in his own hometown, or is that beyond him now?

Glass Houses is a great read, that flows along smoothly and offers lots to engage readers on multiple levels. Longtime readers can enjoy the way Gamache's role has developed over the series, and the escalating challenges he faces, while those new to the series might quickly become hooked and - like me - be searching out Penny's backlist to read more and more of Inspector Gamache and his peers.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes for magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed 200 crime writers, appeared onstage at literary festivals on three continents, and talked about the genre on national radio and popular podcasts. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

No comments:

Post a Comment