This week I’ve made a return to the mysterious Canadian village of Three Pines, which is not found on any map or satnav, for Louise Penny’s eleventh in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. I’m a couple of volumes behind, and this one makes few concessions to readers who have not been following the plot. The former Chief Inspector of the Surete has retired, or so he thinks, until a young boy is found murdered. Young Laurent had an active imagination, so no one believed him when he said he had found something extraordinary in the woods – apart from one person, who killed him.
The book is an extended examination of how the threats of one era continue to dominate the present. At what point does history render a person or an issue harmless? At the same time as Gamache is lending a hand to his successor, an inhabitant of Three Pines is trying to stage a play written by an author of some notoriety. Does his past have any bearing on the case? Gamache is being tempted back to the police – has he been superseded, is his day over, is he past it? Or does his knowledge still have some value? Three Pines may not seem entirely real, but the issues facing a man whose career may be coming to a close most certainly are.
The plot strays into spy/ thriller territory, and is perhaps not the best place to begin an acquaintance with the series, but I found it enjoyable, with odd echoes of Margery Alingham’s The Mind Readers, a much earlier look at the threat posed by rogue scientists.