Glass Houses, by Louise Penny

For the thirteenth time, Louise Penny has written a number-one best selling mystery novel. And once again, Superintendent Armand Gamache (now promoted to Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Quebec) plays the leading role.  But this time Penny’s plot weaves two seemingly un-related stories together into an intricate mystery full of twists and turns, juicy details and humor. It’s a great read.  And, like all Penny’s Gamache mysteries, it is beautifully written.

The book opens on a steamy July day in an uncomfortably hot Montreal courtroom. Surprisingly, Gamache is the one on the stand.  We see a whole different side of his character as we watch and listen to his testimony about drug trafficking.  We learn that he is the courageous, behind-the-scenes leader of a secret, one-man very dangerous war against drugs.  It’s a war that could cost—or save—hundreds of lives. Including Gamache’s.

The second, seemingly un-related, story begins three months later on a cold, rainy November day in Three Pines with the sudden, mysterious appearance of a masked, cloaked figure.  He stands unmoving for hours, then days, on the Village Green thorough rain and sleet, staring at someone or something in the village.

Villagers come to believe that the figure is a Cobrador, a debt collector. According to history, they act as a conscience for someone who has committed a terrible crime.Villagers are curious, but soon become wary.  Gamache suspects the creature has a “dark purpose.” But he can do nothing but watch and wait for days, as his fears continue to mount. Then the creature vanishes as quickly and quietly as it arrived.  But the villagers’ relief quickly turned to fear when a body is discovered. And another murder mystery begins.

Penny toggles between the two stories, between the courtroom in Montreal and the village of Three Pines, putting her readers inside Gamache’s head as he slowly and meticulously unravels the mysteries.  She weaves an intricate plot, taking readers scene by tantalizing scene to the truth that finally solves the mystery.

— by Gail Stilwill

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