Book review: ‘A Great Reckoning’ by Louise Penny

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Armand Gamache is now the superintendent of the Quebec Police Academy. He has been given the task of cleaning the corruption from it as he did the Quebec Provincial Police. Recent cadets have been trained to dominate the public rather than serve it. The prime mover in this effort has been Serge Leduc, the person responsible for the operation of the Academy prior to Gamache. In addition to questionable training methods, he was almost certainly taking kickbacks for most contracts with the academy. Ganache knew this but he needed proof. Consequently, he kept Leduc in a professor’s role even though he had replaced most of the worst offenders. One of his replacements was a former friend and colleague, Michael Brebeurf. Brebeurf had been forced out of the Provincial Police because of his illegal actions. Gamache was giving him a chance to teach and to serve as an object lesson.

A month into the year, Gamache’s approach seemed to be working, although many, especially the seniors, struggled with the changes. Also, Serge Leduc continued to host some students in his room, feeding them all kinds of false information about Superintendent Gamache.

Someone, however, had apparently had enough of Leduc. He was found shot in the head with his own revolver, a six shooter. The Provincial Police hadn’t used a revolver of that type since automatic pistols were available. Why would Leduc even have one? And why the silencer that was on it?

Gamache was no longer a homicide investigator. His former role now belonged to Chief Inspector Lacoste. She and her staff were called in to solve the crime. A thorough examination of the murder scene was undertaken. Among an assortment of partial fingerprints found on the revolver were Gamache’s and those of a freshman he had approved for the program, Amelia Choquert.

Gamache couldn’t understand how his prints were there, as he was not even aware the gun existed. In addition, he wasn’t aware that Amelia had fallen under Leduc’s influence.

Because the Provincial Police would be essentially investigating themselves, an outside observer and participant was brought in. Deputy Commissioner Gelinas of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police filled that role. Gelinas knew that Ganache had as much reason as anyone to be rid of Leduc. With the partial fingerprint and a motive, he thought he knew the murderer and he proceeded on that basis. Since the others would only suspect Gamache as a last resort, it was clearly his responsibility to pursue.

As one would expect, Three Pines becomes involved, even though the murder was at the Academy. The four cadets that were most involved with Leduc were spirited away to Three Pines at least in part for their safety. If Leduc was targeted, maybe those close to him? To keep the cadets busy, and build their investigative skills, they were to investigate a unique map that seemed to lead to an unnamed Three Pines. A copy of it had been found on Leduc’s nightstand.

With Gamache in a different role, and having a different responsibility, Louise Penny is tasked with a different challenge to put the clues together. There is also a different criterion for what is success for Gamache.

If you read this book, be sure to read the acknowledgements at the back.

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