The Blurb (from Goodreads):
It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society – where an obsessive historian’s quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?
Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smoldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. “It doesn’t make sense,” Olivier’s partner writes every day. “He didn’t do it, you know.” As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead.
I’ve been a fan of Louise Penny since her first book, Still Life, was published in 2006. When I met her at the Perth Writers Festival earlier this year, I was astonished to see how many books she had published and how many I had missed. I thought I’d better hurry and catch up with what’s been happening in the world of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.
Bury the Dead is the sixth book in the series, and is set in Québec City, a lovely 16th century fortified town that is one of the oldest European colonies in North America. I really love the Canadian setting of Louise Penny’s books. They are so fresh and vivid, and I learn something new every time about Canadian history and life. Most of her books till now have been set in the fictional village of Three Pines, which – I joked to a friend recently – has had almost as many murders as Midsomer. Despite its extraordinarily high rate of murders, Three Pines is idyllic and makes me want to move there.
The change of setting to Old Québec was, nonetheless, welcome. I knew nothing about its long and bloody history, and found the history revealed in this novel fascinating. It is Winter Carnival, and the cobbled streets and slate roofs are thick with snow. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has not come to Québec City to join in the revelries, but to recover from an earlier investigation which had gone terribly wrong. The aftermath of that investigation haunts Gamache, but the details are only revealed slowly, through memory and flashback, and so the novel is really about two separate violent events, that reflect each other in surprising ways.
The murder in Québec City takes place in the Literary and Historical Society, an old stone library, where a historian’s body has been discovered buried in a shallow grave in the cellar. He had spent his career searching for the grave of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, which has been hidden for more than 400 years.
Meanwhile, Gamache’s second-in-command, Jean Guy Beauvoir goes back to Three Pines to reinvestigate the last murder which happened there, as Gamache has a terrible feeling that he had got it wrong.
So, stories within stories, deaths in the now and in the past, and a fallible detective who is nonetheless dogged and intelligent … Louise Penny writes top-notch crime fiction, and I’m really glad I’ve decided to read the whole series.