Review: Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Armand Gamache is Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Quebec and acknowledged as a fine policeman. As this book opens however he is on leave, recovering from the physical and emotional scars left by events that we don’t know the details of until well into the book. He has gone to Quebec City to stay with his former boss and to conduct some historical research. This activity leads him to become involved in an investigation into a local murder. Although not yet ready to return to work in an official capacity his involvement in this interesting case does provide him some respite from reflecting on the terrible events that have led to his being on leave. At the same time he has become concerned that the resolution to his last case, depicted in The Brutal Telling, might have been incorrect so he asks his colleague Jean Guy Beauvoir, also on leave and recovering from injuries he sustained in the same events that still affect Gamache, to return to Three Pines and see if he can spot something the investigative team missed.

Louise Penny is a consistently good teller of stories but she has outdone herself here, juggling three quite distinct stories without a thread dropped or a wobble made. The re-investigation into the last Three Pines murder is probably the simplest of the stories told and stems from everyone’s belief that the man who went to prison for that murder wouldn’t have behaved as stupidly as it appears he did. Jean Guy is told to approach the re-opened investigation with the assumption that the man is innocent and see what else he can find out on that basis. Unlike Gamache Jean Guy has not been a big fan of the odd little village and its quirky inhabitants but it seems to offer just what he needs for his recovery.

In Quebec City Gamache is doing some research at the Literary and Historical Society library. This peculiar institution is home to all the books and personal papers which capture the history of Quebec’s tiny English-speaking community. The building, the collection it houses and the people who look after it have all seen better days. When Augustin Renaud, an eccentric character who has spent his life searching for the burial site of Quebec’s founder, Samuel de Champlain, is found in the sub-basement of the building Gamache is asked to become involved in the investigation by the elderly librarian. She thinks he will be more sympathetic to the English than other French people. I must admit to finding this story particularly engaging, involving many interesting historical tidbits and a thoughtful depiction of the separatist movement (as well as much walking around the historical city by Gamache and his adorable sounding dog Henri). Fittingly this is a case that is solved mostly by old-fashioned policing.

The final story is the recounting of the events that have led to Gamache and Jean Guy being on leave. Penny has for the most part resisted the temptation to indulge in too much sentimentality here, which for me makes it all the more compelling. Told mostly via Gamache’s remembered conversations with another of his colleagues, with occasional input from Jean Guy, this thread is a contrast to the case unfolding in Quebec City, involving very modern problems and the latest policing techniques.

For me this series has not, in the past, quite reached the ‘must read’ list primarily because I found its hero a bit too perfect and its fictional setting a bit too quirky. Here though we spend less time in quirky Three Pines and Gamache’s perfection is a little tarnished (if only in his own eyes) which made the book a much more credible and satisfying read than its predecessor. The intertwining stories had me hooked from beginning to end and I adored Adam Sims’ narration, complete with mild French accents where appropriate (le puff, le pant as my favourite cartoon character would say).

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Bury Your Dead has been reviewed at Mysteries in Paradise

There has been talk of late in the book blogosphere about visiting in real life locations that appear in books and I couldn’t help but smile when Armand Gamache talks in Bury Your Dead about walking through the old part of Quebec City and coming across ‘Canada’s most photographed building’. I went to Canada as part of my first overseas trip as a 20-year old (approximately 100 years ago) and, yes, I took a photo of it too (I certainly couldn’t afford to stay there). The building is now the Chateau Frontenac Hotel and has always been a luxury hotel since its opening in 1893.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 4/5
Author website
Publisher ISIS Audio Books [2010]
ISBN 9781445008967
Length 12 hours 15 minutes
Format Audio CD
Book Series #6 in the Armand Gamache/Three Pines series
Source I borrowed it from the library

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11 Responses to Review: Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

  1. I’ve read a few books (this one too) by this author and enjoyed them.


  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Bernadette – I am so glad you enjoyed this one :-). I happen to really enjoy the series, so I admit I’m biased. Still I am happy you thought this one was terrific. And thanks, too, for the excellent review!


  3. Bill Selnes says:

    Bernadette: I thought it was the best in the series. I reviewed it earlier this year. I have always thought of Gamache as a decent hard working man. I have not considered him “too perfect”. I expect I am biased as he is a Canadian. I enjoyed your review and am glad you have your own memories of Quebec City.


  4. Ann says:

    Amazing picture. A friend of mine belonged to a book group and they read the Garden of Good and Evil then took a trip to Savannah where the book took place. I haven’t read anything by Louise Penny, I’ll look out for this.


  5. If YOU say that Gamache is less perfect in this volume, it may be time for me to try Louise Penny again. As you probably know, I don´t mind cosies, but I do mind saints 😉


  6. Kathy D. says:

    Hmmm, interesting review. Frankly, I read the first two books and got tired of the residents of Three Pines, didn’t find them interesting any more. However, I do like Gamache, and since he is in Quebec City, and since this review is so positive, I’ll give it a try.
    Also, as a teen-ager, I visited Quebec City with my family and there is a bit of nostalgia.


    • Pat says:

      As of Oct 2012 there isn’t a Three Pines. Maybe in another year. Talk about nostalgia! How exciting is that. An author who can create something on paper and then have it brought into the 3 dimentional world.


  7. Pingback: Books of the Month – July 2011 | Reactions to Reading

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is my first Gamache book and I am completely engaged. Maybe spoiler here but I am puzzled: early in the book didn’t they find the two books – a book of sermons and a travel diary of a trip around Cape of Good Hope – but throughout the rest of the book they are looking for the two books? These seems like an error by the author. Am I missing something?


  9. Pat says:

    Penny did an excellent job with that pesky little issue of blame! Where to put the blame! How about the protestants, no wait, how about the English…. Wait, I know, it’s all the fault of those pesky Americans who chose to declare their indepentence. Yep, that’s it. It’s all their fault!


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