I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
As this sixth book in the series opens Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sureté de Québec and his associate, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, are recovering from severe injuries incurred during a recent police action. Gamache is visiting his mentor in Québec City, where he spends his days in the Literary and Historical Society (Lit and His) researching a historical battle. When the body of a local man, Augustin Renaud, is found in the Lit and His basement Gamache is asked to assist with the murder investigation.
It turns out that Renaud was an eccentric historian obsessed with locating the missing body of Samuel de Champlain, the explorer and soldier who founded Québec City in 1608. Renaud had been digging up sites all over the city and had presumably sneaked into the Lit and His to have a look there.
All this is complicated by the fact that the Lit and His is an English establishment in the midst of the majority French population of Québec City - many of whom are separatists (i.e. want Quebec to separate from Canada). Thus finding the French hero's body on 'English soil' would increase the antagonism between English and French residents.
Meanwhile Inspector Beauvoir has been dispatched to the village of Three Pines, to secretly re-investigate the murder of a hermit. Bistro owner Olivier was convicted of the crime but there are now doubts about his guilt. So Beauvoir pretends to be on vacation while he looks into the matter.
The book rotates among three story lines: Gamache looking for Renaud's murderer; Beauvoir re-investigating the hermit case; and both detectives recalling the event that led to their injuries - a disaster involving a kidnapped police inspector, a bomb, and many deaths.
As the story unfolds the author provides a glimpse into the history of Quebec: how the region was stolen from the Cree Indians; the battles between the Engllish and French vying for the land; how bodies of soldiers and early settlers are buried all over the place; and so on. The book also offers a feel for the current appearance and atmosphere of Québec City, with it's high surrounding wall and vintage buildings - and since the story occurs in winter.....the snow, sleet, wind, icy streets, and arctic temperatures. I almost felt like donning a parka and mitts while reading the book.
While doing his historical research and investigating the Renaud murder Gamache meets an array of interesting characters, most of them on the Board of Directors of the Lit and His. He also eats numerous warm baguettes with delicious French meals and walks his beloved German Shepherd Henri - who is endearingly cowardly and loves to catch snowballs. Poor Henri can't fathom why the 'balls' disappear the second he snags them. Ha ha ha.
For his part, Beauvoir gets to hobnob with the usual array of Three Pines residents, including artist Clara, bookstore owner Myrna, café owner Gabri, crotchety poet Ruth, and others. I missed Ruth's duck, who had taken off south for the winter.
I enjoyed the three plotlines but found the book a little slow-moving in places, especially the parts detailing the physical and psychological injuries of the detectives. Still, a good addition to the ''Three Pines" series, recommended to mystery fans.
Rating: 3.5 stars