”It is Winter Carneval 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 four hundred years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?
Meanwhile, Gamache 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 a terrible event from his own past before he can begin to bury his dead.”
Thoughts: Louise Penny continues her Inspector Gamache series with Bury Your Dead. In her latest installment, Gamache is no longer the comforting police presence but rather a man struggling to battle his demons. Bury Your Dead is really almost three stories in one, as it continues a mystery that was at the heart of The Brutal Telling while branching out to a new mysterious death involving the Anglos and the Francophones of Quebec. Tying the two mysteries together is the tragedy that decimated Gamache’s confidence and health, seen in flashbacks as he comes to grips with his actions and inactions that led to the deaths of several of his officers.
Inspector Gamache continues to impress with his patient perusal of facts and insightful questions that get right to the heart of a mystery. However, the shaken and fragile Gamache now presented is a surprising figure, all the more so because it is not the self-assured inspector that readers have come to know and love. There is something immensely sympathetic about this extremely capable man fighting his misplaced guilt and anguish at the loss of life of those under his command that makes him even more likable because it highlights his humanity as opposed to his almost supernatural deductive reasoning.
Speaking of the murders, the death of a Francophone historian in the farthest basement of the Anglo Literary and Historical Society pits the two factions against each other and introduces the reader to the very real sense of disconnection Quebec feels towards the rest of Canada. At the heart of the murder is the mystery of the missing remains of Samuel de Champlain, something that remains unsolved today. Ms. Penny uses Bury Your Dead to educate readers about the importance of the Father of New France and the ongoing but much more subtle battle that continues to this day between the French and the English. The historical elements are every bit as fascinating as the murder mystery itself.
Also playing a large part of Bury Your Dead is the continuation of the mystery in Three Pines from the book XX. After the costly mistakes made in the still-unknown tragedy from which Gamache is recovering, he second-guesses his actions and conclusions drawn from that case, even though the case has already gone to trial and a jury has found Olivier guilty. This second-guessing forces him to request Detective Beauvoir, another familiar face and recovering from his own injuries from the tragedy, to go back to Three Pines and look at the case from a new angle. In true Gamache fashion, he eventually gets his men and learns something about humanity in the process.
Bury Your Dead is as much about forgiveness and recovery as it is about finding a murderer or two. Gamache must find a way to forgive himself for his mistakes that cost the lives of some of his men but ultimately saved more. Beauvoir must recover from more than just his physical injuries if he hopes to fulfill his superior’s request. The English and the French Quebecoise each made their own mistakes over the years that require forgiveness and their own recovery. It is an interesting plot in which the murders take a back seat to all of the healing that needs to happen among the key characters.
Old Quebec City comes to life in all of its wintry grandeur through Ms. Penny’s beautiful descriptions. Her imagery urges readers to visit this charming city. Even with the discussions of thick parkas, wind so cold that it causes tears to spring up and then freeze on cheeks, the very real possibility of freezing to death, and myriad piles of deep snow, she makes all of Quebec, but particularly the fictional town of Three Pines and old Quebec City, immensely appealing, and the entire story is more satisfying because it.
Bury Your Dead is a very satisfactory continuation to an already-delightful series. Inspector Gamache is lovable in his quaintness and impressive in his detective skills, while the fragility he now displays only serves to make him more realistic and human. The tragedy that haunts Gamache prevents him from remaining the stereotypically aloof genius detective, and it strengthens the novel to have the most celebrated detective in Canada fallible. For a cozy mystery with a little more substance and an amazing amount of heart, one need look no further than the ever-enjoyable Inspector Gamache series and Bury Your Dead.
Acknowledgments: Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reader Program for my review copy!