In this 13th book in the 'Chief Inspector Armand Gamache' series, the detective is trying to destroy a drug cartel. The book can be read as a standalone.
Armand Gamache is now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, which he's spent years ridding of entrenched corruption. The Chief Superintendent is now fighting another battle - aimed at containing the drug epidemic that's ruining (or ending) so many lives.
Gamache is coordinating much of the drug war from the village of 'Three Pines', located beside the Canada-Vermont border, where Gamache lives with his wife Reine-Marie, German Shepherd Henri, and new dog Gracie - who looks like a cross between a canine and a rabbit. 😊
Gamache's plans to take down the drug cartel - which MUST be kept top secret - are thrown off kilter after a mysterious figure draws attention to Three Pines. One day a masked, black-clad individual shows up at a Halloween party, after which the figure takes up a position in the center of town - not speaking, not moving.....only staring. Though the statue-like figure doesn't say a word, one can almost sense it thinking "J'ACCUSE." The creepy individual isn't an overt threat, so - though it makes the townsfolk VERY uncomfortable - there's nothing Gamache can do about it.
A group of Université de Montréal graduates, who are having a reunion of sorts in Three Pines, know something about what the figure represents - but they're reluctant to say anything. Information about the spooky symbol IS slowly revealed to Gamache, but not before a murder occurs.....and Reine-Marie discovers the body.
A suspect confesses to the crime, and is put on trial. However the trial is a tricky undertaking since it might alert the drug cartel to how much Gamache knows about them. So, the Chief Inspector is in the tough spot of deciding whether or not to commit perjury!! 😵 To add to the drama, the Chief Crown Prosecutor Barry Zalmanowitz - who should be on the same side as Gamache - is hostile and antagonistic.
The book alternates between the trial, the events leading up to it, and the implementation of Gamache's plan to destroy the drug cartel - so there are time jumps, but the story is easy to follow.
The usual recurring characters are on hand, including: Jean-Guy Beauvoir - Gamache's son-in-law and second in command at the Sûreté; Oliver and Gabri - who run the local B&B/bistro and host the visiting university alumni; Myrna - who runs the bookstore and will trade drinks for scuttlebutt about the murder inquiry; Clara - the portrait artist who mostly paints (half-finished) pictures of herself; the ornery old poet Ruth and her duck Rosa 🦆 - who tend to sound alike (quack quack); and more.
There are also some new faces in the story, such as: Judge Maureen Corriveau - who's in charge of the murder trial, and senses something's wrong; Anton - the new dishwasher at the bistro, who aspires to be a chef; Jaqueline - a baker who creates good pastries but can't make a decent baguette; and others.
I enjoyed the book, which is well-written and compelling. However, I think the premise - about the crucial need to derail the Québec based drug cartel - is disingenuous. The destruction of a drug gang, even if it's successful, isn't going to end the drug epidemic. Narcotics cartels are like Hydras - cut off one head and another one grows. So Gamache's long-term plan to decimate the drug organization - which causes tremendous hardship in the Sûreté and in Québec - doesn't ring true.
Still, this is a well-crafted novel that I'd recommend to readers who like mysteries - especially fans of Armand Gamache.
Rating: 3.5 stars