The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Gamache) by Louise Penny

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The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Gamache) by Louise Penny

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: It's the 17th book in the series but there's still a freshness which most other series have lost by this stage. It's also very relevant to the times we live in. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: August 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1529379389

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In the Canadian village of Three Pines, we're post-pandemic: the scars are still there but life is starting to get back to normal. The villagers are beginning to return to the Bistro and the Auberge. They're visiting each other's homes and having friends and relatives to stay. A young Sudanese woman who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize is one such visitor and she soon proves that not all saints are necessarily pleasant people to be around - a bit like Vincent Gilbert, known in the village as the Asshole Saint.

In that usually dead week between Christmas and the New Year, there's some excitement. Well, on the face of it, you could think of it as more of a diversion for the precious few who might be interested. It's a statistics lecture given by Professor Abigail Robinson and Armand Gamache has been asked to provide security for the lecture at the Université de l'Estrie in Quebec. He can't imagine why such a job should fall to the head of homicide but it's a personal request from the chancellor, so he goes ahead - and it rapidly becomes obvious that there's a lot more than meets the eye to this lecture. The pandemic has made people nervous about their futures, about the future of their country. They've also been given food for thought: in the course of the pandemic, many of the frailer members of society died, their deaths perhaps hastened by the illness but the probability is that they would not have lived for much longer in any case.

The Professor has a suggestion for a dramatic solution for the situation which Canada finds itself in and it's one that many people would be happy to get behind. They've come to listen to Robinson: she has the statistics to prove that what she suggests is right and would work. People have travelled hundreds of miles to hear the lecture and they're prepared to queue for hours in the bitter cold to ensure that they get a seat. The lecture hall is packed. First, there were the firecrackers - and then the gunshots.

You can always rely on Louise Penny to give you a great story and this one is no exception. Regular readers of the series will be relieved to know that they're going to meet all their old friends from the village with just the necessary sprinkling of new characters, all of which will stay in your mind. Some you'll root for - others you'll be less certain about - but you're going to need to know what's happening and why. You'll also be desperate to know whether Abigail Robinson's proposal has the legs to run. There's obvious support for it in some quarters but you'll find yourself musing on the distinction between 'mathematically correct' and 'morally defensible'.

Despite the fact that the village of Three Pines has an unreasonably high number of homicides (at least one a year for the last sixteen years, by my reckoning) it's a place you find yourself wanting to inhabit. It's a series which I've followed, quietly, for many years as I know that I can always rely on Louise Penny for a good plot with plenty of thought-provoking side issues. I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

All the Armand Gamache books read well as standalones but you might enjoy starting at the beginning of the series. You won't regret it!

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